HAIL THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION!
Friday 11 February 2011 is a historic day. It will be remembered forever as the day a heroic people brought down a hated tyrant.
Let us not, in the midst of our celebration, forget for one moment that three hundred Egyptians, mostly young Egyptians, paid with their lives for this victory. Glory to the martyrs of the Egyptian Revolution! Those responsible should be brought to trial.
Let us not, in the midst of our celebration, forget for one moment, the terrible and heroic struggle waged by the Egyptian people, mostly (as in all revolutions) the youth of Egypt, to win this great victory. The world saw, in the full light of day, Mubarak’s thugs – his police out of uniform and their paid accomplices – attempt, with ferocious violence, to drive the people from Tahrir Square. It saw the people, with courage and organisation and, above all, numbers, drive them back and rout them.
What the world did not see, or saw much less of, was the even more heroic battle of the Egyptian people, again mainly the young, which occurred to a considerable extent under cover of darkness, in which the revolutionaries routed the feared and hated police. This was the seemingly impossible. This was the victory no ‘sensible’, ‘moderate’ or ‘reasonable person’ would have deemed possible. The fact is it happened, and the fact is also that revolutions happen when people are willing to give their lives for them, as they were in Egypt.
Let us not, in the midst of our joy, forget also that the USA, and Britain and Saudia Arabia etc, sustained the hideous Mubarak regime with massive financial and military aid, until the last possible moment. The American modus operandi for these situations is unfortunately well established: support the dictator to the last possible moment, then pose as champions of democracy at the eleventh hour in order to retain influence over the situation.
But nothing – nothing – can change the fact that the ordinary people, with their bare hands, brought down the tyrant and this means that everywhere in the world whenever people say, in their weariness and alienation, ‘it’ll never change’ or ‘it will never happen’ we can say simply ‘Egypt!’.
However, our joy at this great victory does not relieve us of the duty to tell the truth about the situation on the ground. Apart from the fall of Mubarak the central aims of the Revolution have not yet been achieved. As yet we do not know that the practice of torture in Egypt’s police stations and prisons has ended. As yet we do not know if the practice of detaining people without trial is finished. We do not know if there will be a transition to genuine democracy.
At the moment the Egyptian people are asked to trust the military, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to ensure these things happen. But this Supreme Council consists entirely of generals close to Mubarak and up to their necks in the blood of the Egyptian people and up to their wallets in the people’s wealth. It includes the notorious Omar Sulieman, torturer-in-chief, and the CIA’s man in Cairo. It includes and is headed by Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, former commander of Mubarak’s Presidential Guard, and Sami Hafaz Anan of whom Al Jazeera reports:
Lieutenant- General Anan ... is commander of 468,000 troops. He is seen as having a crucial role in coordinating interim arrangements... He was in Washington when the uprising began ... it was reported that the United States was pushing Anan for a key mediating role, though it was speculated that he was far too close to Mubarak to retain ant role in a new government.
The other members are similar and many are closely linked to the US. Moreover, the basic idea that the army is the army of ‘the nation’, of the people, is an illusion. The Egyptian Army, i.e. its high command as opposed to the ordinary soldiers, like every army, is part of the society’s ruling class and will defend its interests. If the army did not repress the people in the last 17 days it was probably for fear that its rank- and – file would break and side with the people, as has happened in many revolutions from the Paris Commune through Russia in 1917 to the Iranian Revolution. So the army is still there to defend the rich and the regime if need be. I remember with sadness the prevalence of the illusion in a ‘national army’ before the Polish military coup, crushing Solidarnosc, in 1981 and before the Tianenman Square massacre in China in 1989.
There is an even more fundamental problem. The Egyptian people who made the revolution will be hoping for a better life – not only political freedom but also economically and socially. But the poverty and deprivation that is so widespread in Egypt is NOT simply the product of the Mubarak regime. It exists, to a greater or lesser degree, everywhere from Washington to Rio, from London to Cape Town, from Portugal to India. It is a product not of one government but of the international capitalist system and the imperialist structure of the world economy that goes with it.
Economically and strategically Egypt is a highly significant part of this system and structure and closely tied to the US which is the very heart of the system and its main international policeman. Nothing that has happened so far in Egypt will have changed the fact that the Sawiris family, estimated wealth over $20 billion, coexists with millions in slums and abject poverty; nothing to end the contrast between the rich luxuriating in Zamalek or Heliopolis and wage slaves of Mahalla or Helwan or the poor of Shubra or the Cities of the Dead. And the Supreme Council, and the US government and David Cameron and many of the media pundits, who are expressing false solidarity and fake approval of the Revolution, will be desperate to see that nothing does challenge this monstrous inequality or the capitalist system that underlies it.
But what the Revolution has produced already is a power, the power of the working class, that CAN challenge capitalism and, undoubtedly WILL come into conflict with the system in the days, weeks and months ahead.
This is why the struggle goes on: to cleanse the regime of its torturers and thieves; to establish real democratic freedom; to build the people’s power from below that can claim Egypt’s wealth for the people of Egypt. In this struggle the People’s Committees formed to defend communities in the Revolution and the strikes and workplace occupations developing over the last few days are crucial. POWER TO THE WORKERS!
12 February 2011