|International Courier Supplement – June 2011
Written by IWL-FI
|Tuesday, 28 June 2011 02:25|
|Egypt: A revolution underway
Between the 3rd and the 6th June, a representation of Brazilians took part in the Conference of Solidarity with the Arab Revolution in Egypt. Dirceu Travesso, representing CSP Conlutas, Clara Saraiva for ANEL (Students’ National Association – Free) and Gloria Ferreira of the PSTU. What follows is the text of a report on situation in Egypt, written by comrades Gloria and Clara.
Winds of Revolution still blow in Cairo
Conversations with workers and activists revealed that winds of revolution are still blowing in Egypt. The process initiated on January 25th goes on posing the alternative: revolution – counterrevolution.
The city breathes revolution. Cairo has 7.9 million inhabitants, 2 out of which wee on the Tahir Square during the denouement of the great events in February. Seeing the numbers it becomes easy to understand: the revolutionary awareness was built up by the millions out in the streets stands for the absolute majority. The taxi-driver, the caretaker, the worker, the student, the young unemployed woman… they have all been on the square, they saw the power of the moving masses, and they know that after 25th January the country is no longer the same. Inquired as to what has changed after the fall of Mubarak, Ahmedm a young taxi-driver answered categorically, “Everything.”
Youth and vanguard
The first anniversary of the day when Khaled Said, a middleclass youth was arrested, tortured and murdered by the police of the Mubarak dictatorship. The entire population was shocked by this terrible injustice, thinking that this could have happened to any of them or to any of their children. This turned into a great symbol of struggle and, in 2010, thousands walked out into the streets carrying his photographs and saying “We are all Khaled Said”.
We talked to many young people during this trip, to the protagonists of this revolution. Practically all of them has been jailed or had a story of repression during the Mubarak days to tell. Many even have a friend who has been killed. When we reached the Cairo University, we saw the exhibition of the photographs of the students killed during the Revolution.
We managed to have a meeting with representatives of the 6th April who, even though they do not have a socialist programme or a clear strategy of power, their activity was central to the Revolution. They are young people who, in 2006, built an organisation stemming out of a workers’ strike in Mahallah, in the north of Egypt, when workers occupied factories. These youngsters, many of them students, felt identified with the struggle of the workers and they realised how important that was to challenge the dictatorship. They began to have a larger scope of action in 2007 due to an audience conquered through the Internet.
They gave us the best report on the Revolution: “After the ascent in Tunisia, when Ben Alli was toppled, combined with the enormous repudiation (real hatred) of the population against the Mubarak, the 25th January dawned. As an outcome of these two conditions, the Engineers’ Trade Union summoned for a rally for January 25th, traditionally an institutional commemoration of Egyptian police. When we issued this summons we never knew how this date would remain marked in history.”
“The demonstration was a great success and, in several points of the city, many thousands of workers and young people started gathering little by little. During the march, they chanted, “come, come, bring your families and join us.” Meanwhile the police brutality accrued against the demonstrators. But the effect was contrary to what it was meant to be: more and more people walked out into the streets.” News started coming from other cities in Egypt: they were also occupying squares and streets and spawned more confidence in resistance.
“So we thought, ‘oh OK. So now we have a revolution. So what are we supposed to do now?’ Half a million people were already occupying the Square and the number kept on increasing as a part of the same national movement increasingly confident that they would only stop when Mubarak fell.”. There was no other conclusion to be drawn: we were face to face with a revolution. Repression became more savage. Thousands of demonstrators were arrested and some were killed. The deep meaning of what was going on spawned more self-sacrifice and greater predisposition to fight to the absolute end. Simultaneously what grew was also the felling of equality among those present. Men and women, Moslem and Christians, young and old, all together were equal and revolutionary.
Massive self-organisation began. Commissions to guarantee security, food and cleanliness were formed. There were millions living in an inexplicable harmony in quest of building for future of their country. “The Square was the most perfect place in the world at that moment,” one of the leaders tells us.
Mubarak tried to demoralise them saying that they were an isolated movement on the Tahrir and they not more than youngsters. He threatened them dreadfully, cancelled the internet in the whole country to avoid communication through social networks. They told us that at that moment they discussed the need to extend the revolution to workers. And this was the turning point. Mubarak’s attempts at isolating the Revolution at Tahrir Square proved to be a failure: workers at factories went on strike, something that was evidenced during the three days when the Suez Channel, economically very important for imperialism, was paralysed. The Revolution became stronger until, on 11 February 2011, Mubarak fell.
A young activist asks us about Brazilian experience. He poses the problem: “We are all under 30: we have not done any militant activity before the Mubarak dictatorship. We do not know how to do overt military activity.”
There is an ample process of political and trade union reorganisation underway. Strikes have extended all over the country; at the universities there is a broad process of mobilisation against local leaderships and administrations; activists discuss building of trade unions, independent students’ associations and political parties.
And yet, even from the democratic point of view there are still many tasks to be completed. They army is the boss of the country, even the same police are still patrolling the streets, the officials of the old regime have not yet been published and there are new rules demanding that $160 000 are to be raised before a party can be mounted, etc.
Unemployment and poverty are still rampant
When we asked a taxi-driver about the living conditions, he answered, “Ah! This is still just the same”. The structural conditions that had led to the revolution are still there: economic crisis, inflation where food is concerned, unemployment and poverty.
An activist expressed the indignation of the people clearly, Can you understand this? A kilo of meat here costs about 15 dollars. Thousands of Egyptians do not know the taste of meat.”
Change in the living conditions and even the furthering of the democratic achievements depend on the split with imperialism and clash against the limits of capitalism in the region. Showing off their total subordination to imperialism, the military administration have just signed an agreement with the IMF including a 3000 million dollars, allegedly “aid” to “warrant the transition to democracy and freedom”. Actually it is conditioned to keep the new government under neo-liberal regulations and in agreement with the IMF prescriptions and includes such measures as privatisations, opening to foreign investment and free transit of capitals.
Youth is still fighting against the authoritarianism of the government
As from 25th of January, Fridays became protest days, larger or smaller rallies; the square has never been empty. There went young workers, unemployed, many of them newly graduated from universities, with no prospects for future. The military Council has been tying hard to control and – if necessary – to repress this movement. But they are up against an entire generation educated in this revolution. The government repressed a march in support of the Palestinians heading for the frontier with Gaza on the Nakba anniversary.
The army, the strongest institution of the new regime, continues committing all kinds of maltreatment and has recently been involved in a scandal. An office stated that they had been practising a “test of virginity” on women activists arrested during protests at the Tahrir Square to make sue that later on they could not be accused of rape. This real aggression against women spawned commotion among the population.
Young people made headway in their organisation, even in the neighbourhoods and together with workers. For the first time in the history of Egypt, they are holding free elections to students’ centres and trade unions for teachers and employees. We can perceive their great mistrust in the current regime governed by the militaries.
A few days ago, a newspaper issued an article suggesting the possibility of freeing Mubarak without a trial. An outraged population reacted to that so the government issued a statement saying that it was all the periodical’s fault and that as from now every article will have to be authorised by them. They still feat the power of the masses and – especially so – the selflessness of the Egyptian youth.
The contradiction: the masses still trust the Council administration
The great contradiction is that the masses have great expectations in the current administration. The High Council of the Armed Forces (HCAF) claim to be part of the 25th January revolution when actually they are part of the counterrevolution for they upheld the old regime until the very last and only yielded when the adamant stance of the masses made the change unavoidable if social order was to be maintained. But not everybody is aware of that: armed forces enjoy high prestige in the country. In spite of their own crisis in the face of the revolution, they went through the process without a split because – even if they were obliging and allowed the police to repress, it was not their troops who repressed the protest overtly. It was the police who shot at the demonstrators. That is why it is the police that wound up so burnt-out, that is why they had to abandon the Square and, after the fall of Mubarak, were dissolved – even if the cadres were stationed elsewhere and are still part of the repressive schema.
This is why the situation of the country is so complex: there is terrific confusion in the awareness of the workers as to the current government headed by the armed forces and a great doubt as to what the future of the country is supposed to be. But, according to the young people we have been talking to, people can see very clearly that it was the workers who made the revolution and the people and not the militaries, even if they do expect the army to carry out the transition towards democracy and a change in the country.
The recent government-proposed Referendum held on the reforms to the Constitution was a way of channelling the revolution towards small constitutional changes meant to create the mirage of a real change in their lives. The 6th April Movement stood for the NAY vote. They told us that most of the young people voted NAY, especially in Cairo. The inland regions, less affected by the revolution and receiving more army-made ideological propaganda pushed the final result to 77% for AYE.
“Revolution in Egypt: AYE or NAY?
Among the youth who participated in the mobilizations experience is further ahead. For example: we met a young man wrote on the walls, “Revolution in Egypt: AYE or NAY?”
When we asked him what this meant he spoke of the ire against the social pest of the country and the military government. What he was trying to express was that Revolution in Egypt had not reached its end that we could not be celebrating so much, that the banners raised on the Tahrir Square had not yet been achieved. He criticized the current government bitterly and said that the living conditions of the population had not changed. He regretted that the demonstrations did not keep on with the same strength, but at the same time he expressed hope that economic and social demands should go on being raised alongside with the democratic ones. He was an unemployed newly graduated architect. He was the face of the revolution. Criticism posed to the government was a recurrent issue in conversations with young people. We might say that youth regards the Superior Council of the Armed Forces.
The young vanguard of the revolution does not feel represented by the figures that lead the country. On Friday 27th May, several youth organizations, headed by the 6th April Movement, summoned for a day of demonstration. About 500 000 people got mobilized; it was the biggest event since the Revolution. The main demand was trial for Mubarak and immediate establishment of a civilian government.
It was a great demonstration in spite of the boycott of the Moslem Brotherhood who, consistently with their role of the principal political mainstay of the government and the Council of the Armed Forces, took a stance against the protests.
The rally expressed that the revolutionary process goes on and that, in spite of their traditional leaders. Workers are seeking ways and building their own. The government and the armed forces are trying to find a way of aborting this while Egyptian workers and youth are gaining awareness of the deep change they have spawned: Mubarak fell. The toiling masses entered the stage with an impressive force. When workers and youth get together with the purpose of changing their lifestyles, there is no stopping them.
“Gadafi and Assad are dictators”
There is no doubt among Egyptian activists that the revolution initiated on January 25th in Egypt was possible due to the victory achieved in Tunisia when Ben Ali was toppled. The doubtless awareness that all the mobilizations in all the countries (Egypt, Syria, Yemen, etc.) are part of an only one revolutionary process in the Arab world as a whole is a fact.
Apart from the awareness that all these mobilizations are parts of the same process, there is an evident identification between the Arab people and its culture. This identification has a fundamental political aspect, which is materialized in their repudiation of the State of Israel. It exists especially among activists but it is also there in a more ample sector of the population, which rejects the State of Israel and is aware of what this does to the Palestinians. They know that his state is a totally controlled and financed by imperialism and that is why revolutions have necessarily the contents against Israel and the genocide promoted against the Palestinians.
Consequently, the Palestinian issue, combined with the awareness of all the mobilisations being part of the same process, makes it very clear that the role played by Gadafi and Assad in Libya and Syria is the same as that of all the dictators in the Arab world. At all the meetings we attended in Egypt, activists made it very clear that, in order to build and strengthen the Arab revolution, the struggle must be against these dictators as well as against imperialism.
“Chavez is not on our side”
As part of the understanding that Gadafi and Assad are playing the same authoritarian role as all the other dictators, activists strongly repudiate the posture taken by Chavez and Castro. Even if they do regard revolution in Latin America as a reference, when talking to them, we were under the impression that the support for Gadafi and Assad was a real divisor of waters and caused expectations regarding these two rulers to dwindle.
At a meeting we were explaining the current revolutionary process in Latin America and we asked a comrade about his position on Chavez. He said, “He is with Gadafi; he is not on our side”. We believe this to be the position of the majority of left activists in Egypt.
They repudiate these dictators but they do not accept the imperialist military intervention and they have no doubts about the fact that their interest lies in the natural wealth of the countries and the subjugation of these nations. As from that discussion it became very simple to explain that at present these rulers will do nothing to improve the living conditions of the workers, that the contrary is true: they too, are on the side of imperialism.
We had an impression that a slightly broader fringe of participants in the revolution tended to accept the imperialist intervention saying, “Libyans are being murdered by Gadafi’s troops; it is necessary to support them.” But not even this position is accompanied with political confidence in imperialism. On the contrary, because of the relation that exists with the State of Israel, they are familiar with their real interests but they tend to support the military intervention because they fear what will happen to the Libyans. They underrate the harm that imperialist intervention can produce to the interests of the revolution. But support for Gadafi simply would not even occur to them. That is why Chavez’s and Castro’s position has no audience in the country.