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John Passant

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January 2011



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Egypt: the revolution has begun

The Egyptian revolution has begun. Across Egypt hundreds of thousands have demonstrated, demanding freedom and food, justice and jobs.

The masses took to the streets of Cairo in their tens of thousands chanting Down with Mubarak.

There are even reports that in Alexandria the people control the city.

Demonstrators in Cairo torched the building housing Mubarak’s ruling party. They have fought the police, driving them away.

Police stations are on fire.

The army now controls key buildings in Cairo.

The masses are in no mood for compromise. ‘Mubarak out’ is their demand.

Mubarak appears incapable of or unwilling to hear their cries. The dictator appeared on TV promising reforms. He had 30 years to deliver. He hasn’t.

The action of the masses has forced him to make concessions, talking about freedom while shutting down the internet and arresting thousands, talking about dialogue while jailing his opponents. He has even dismissed the Government.

It is not enough. The concessions will embolden the protestors. Mubarak has to go too. 

Power has already passed to the streets, although the people may not yet realise it.

The actions of the masses can force him out.

If workers and peasants continue their protests and link the political demands for freedom with their economic ones for food, jobs and better pay they can destroy not just the dictator but his regime as well.

Obama has expressed support for reforms. Vice President Joe Biden has argued Mubarak is not a dictator.

Hillary Clinton, who two days ago was telling us the regime was stable, has even urged the demonstrators to exercise restraint and protest peacefully.

Unlike Clinton I support those fighting against Mubarak’s armed thugs. Remember, these are the thugs who have launched brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators.

More than that I look forward to the day when People’s Tribunals despatch Mubarak and his henchmen to justice.

The Americans have spent the last 30 years arming this dictator. They only began talking about reform, but not Mubarak’s resignation, note, when the Egyptian masses moved against the tyrant.

Now the Americans will be looking for a compromise that guarantees their interests but seems to give expression to the demands of the Egyptian people. The two are irreconcilable in the long term.

Imperialism and democracy are incompatible in the region.

‘Moderate’ figures like Elbaradei are being touted as future leaders. While they may mouth platitudes acceptable to the masses, they can’t deliver within the context of Egyptian capitalism thoroughly integrated into the global capitlaist system and US imperialism. 

The Muslim Brotherhood is a tame oppositional group.

It has a social service network across Egypt built around the mosques.

But the demands so far have been secular and the Brotherhood until yesterday refused to endorse the demonstrations. 

It may benefit from the uprising and the demonisation Mubarak has carried out against it over the last decades, giving it an undeserved popular respectability perhaps.

In the short and long term the Brotherhood cannot, because it accepts the capitalist mode of production,  address the problems of capitalism – unemployment, the grinding poverty and the lack of food and high costs for many.

In any event revolutions have a momentum all their own. The immediate needs of people and how to satisfy them come to the fore. The class nature of society is exposed.

The revolution educates the exploited.

The Egyptian working class is massive. About half the population are workers or dependent on workers. There are huge textile and other factories with tens of thousands of workers.

Over the last 3 years workers have been organising in independent unions and striking for better conditions, pay and jobs. These have been training exercises for the revolution.

Poverty is endemic. 25 percent of the population live on less than a euro a day. Officially unemployment is over 9 percent but that disguises a real figure likely to be much higher.

76 percent of those unemployed are in the 15-25 age bracket, with 92 percent of the unemployed having graduate degrees.

It is a volatile mix – unemployed graduates, the poor, and a poorly paid but powerfully positioned working class. Their anger has exploded and no amount of posturing by liberals or even islamists is likely to convince them to limit their struggles for jobs, freedom and food.

This will certainly be the case if they set up alternative structures of power.

A mass revolutionary socialist party with deep roots in the working class would argue for actions to take the revolution forward like a general strike and seizing the workplaces.

Such a party does not currently exist in Egypt. It will be necessary to build it out of the struggles.

The masses seem to have illusions in the defences forces but not the police and the security forces.

Egypt has the tenth largest army in the world, with close to half a million under arms and another half a million reservists. It is a conscript force.

The task for the revolution must be to win over their conscripted brothers in the armed forces. After all their families are in the streets, and they come from the same poverty stricken and repressed society and suffer the same dreadful conditions as the demonstrators.  

One urgent task of the revolution is to get rid of Mubarak. How to do that?

On the Thursday night before he fled Ben Ali, the Tunisian tyrant, just like Mubarak has now done, offered concessions but promised to remain in power. 

On Friday the normally compliant Tunisian union confederation, the UGTT, called a two hour general strike and workers joined the demonstrations. Ben Ali fled.

A general strike in Egypt offers the best chance to overthrow Mubarak and to get rid of his cronies.

A general strike then raises the question of how to feed the population and provide other essentials. Only by taking control of the workplaces and running them democratically can workers solve that problem.

The left in Egypt needs now to make the arguments for a general strike and for workers to seize their workplaces and run them democratically.

That is socialist revolution.  Only that way offers a real solution to the intractable problems that capitalism creates and which Egyptian society confronts.

The masses are awakening.

Strike to bring down Mubarak and his regime. Seize the factories. 

Victory to the Egyptian working class. Onwards to freedom and food, justice and jobs.

Long live the Egyptian revolution.

An updated version of this article can be found at Strike to bring Mubarak down.



Pingback from En Passant » Has the revolution begun? – Have your say on Saturday’s socialist speak out
Time January 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm

[…] Readers might like to read my more recent artcle on this: Egypt: the revolution has begun. […]

Comment from juanR
Time January 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm

John your enthusiasm is boundless and contagious, may our old dear K Marx be looking down on you with contented satisfaction.
So, despite my previous comments. here is my salute: Long live the Egyptian (Arab world) revolution.

Comment from Ross
Time January 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Mubarak in desperation has shut down the internet.These are the despots backed by our Global Corporate elites who put nations like Egypt into debt slavery from which they cannot escape.

China finances 80% of its currency from Govt owned banks.They do not have the debt of Egypt or many countries in the West.

We have to careful John that Mubarak is not replaced with another Corporate USA/Zionist puppet.

Comment from John
Time January 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm

juanR, these are but the first steps. Let’s hope the Egyptian working class can learn the way forward through their struggle for a better world.

Comment from juanR
Time January 29, 2011 at 9:52 pm

John I agreed with your sentiments but I cannot help feeling pessimistic about their chances. I cannot see how the USA, Israel and and some of the less progressive European “democracies” are going to stand by and let the “domino” fall. Anyway, on a more seriously urgent and important matter, I sincerely hope that the revolutionary fervor of the Arab workers doesn’t spread as far as Qatar before the Aussies have a chance to beat Japan in the Asian Cup tomorrow at 2.00 am our time!
Hasta la victoria siempre.

Comment from arjay
Time January 29, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Ken O’Keefe renounced his US citizenship and is now battling for the rights of Palistinians.Ken is passsion personified.

Pingback from En Passant » Strike to bring Mubarak down
Time January 29, 2011 at 11:35 pm

[…] Readers may also like to read my earlier article today on which parts of this are based called Egypt: the revolution has begun. […]

Comment from Walter
Time January 30, 2011 at 11:41 am

John, I cannot believe you wrote this: “The Muslim Brotherhood is a tame oppositional group.”

As a reader of history and politics, you’d surely be aware that they have said violence and war against their enemies is acceptable and want to introduce the most repressive religious laws seen outside of Iran and Saudi Arabia?

FYI – read this article, which says a lot about the current situation –

Pingback from En Passant » Calls for an indefinite general strike in Egypt
Time January 31, 2011 at 9:43 pm

[…] Readers might also like to look at Arab democracy threatens Israel and the US, Strike to bring Mubarak down and Egypt: the revolution has begun. […]

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