Bye Bye Mubarak

FIRST Tunisia. Now Egypt. Arab tyrants are going down like ninepins as the masses raise the flag of liberty on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and across the Nile Delta. The Mubarak regime is trying to cling to power but few believe it can even see the week out.

Some 40 per cent of Egypt’s 80 million people live in poverty and the world-wide capitalist crisis that has sent food prices soaring in Egypt has been the last straw. Inspired by the mass protests and strikes that brought down the Tunisian dictatorship the oppressed millions of Egypt — the workers, peasants, unemployed youth and intellectuals — have united to drive Mubarak and his old guard out.

Hosni Mubarak, a successful air force commander turned politician, came to power following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Traitor Sadat, who was cut down in a hail of bullets by Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the surrender peace with Israel, began the dismantling of the public sector and the welfare state established during the rule of his predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Mubarak eagerly followed in Sadat’s footsteps, putting Egypt firmly in the imperialist camp in return for the American dollars that enriched Egypt’s parasite class but left millions on the poverty line.

During the Nasser era Egypt was a major Arab power and a key player in the non-aligned movement. Under Mubarak Egypt was little more than an American puppet — a pawn that could be guaranteed to support whatever US imperialism wanted in the Middle East.

When Nasser was in power Egypt had land reform, public ownership and “safety-net” state welfare that subsidised food, redistributed wealth and provided free basic education and health treatment for the poor. During the 30 years of Mubarak’s rule unemployment soared, the poor got poorer while a tiny Egyptian bourgeois elite lined their pockets through corruption and exploitation.

American “aid” largely went to Egypt’s military and security services. Egypt received some $1.3 billion a year to equip the armed forces and police that were the major props of the regime until last week’s upheavals shook their loyalty to the core. In return Mubarak served as a willing tool of Washington and Tel Aviv in the region to neutralise the Arab League and undermine the Palestinian cause.

Now the imperialists, who propped up Mubarak’s corrupt regime for decades, are scrabbling around trying to find a tame successor who can head off the demands for freedom and social justice and keep Egypt in the Western camp. There’s no obvious alternative American candidate but Franco-German imperialism seems to favour Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Commission, who has put himself to the fore of the liberal opposition to the Mubarak regime.

At the moment the key issue on the Egyptian street is to force Mubarak out through peaceful, mass protests and the formation of an interim national unity government that can pave the way for free elections. Then the Egyptians can elect a government of their choice and choose whoever they want as president, free from imperialist interference. That’s their right and we must all support them in their struggle for freedom and independence.