Egyptian masses defy military

by John Catalinotto

Workers World (US)

THE MASSES have opened a new chapter in the Egyptian revolution. They have stood strong in Tahrir Square for nearly four days against bullets and tear-gas demanding that the military regime, which succeeded President Hosni Mubarak last February, step down.

As the day ended in Egypt, the Health ministry reported that 23 people had been killed and more than 1,500 wounded by the Egyptian army and police. But the people keep filling Tahrir Square.

As a result of the mass determination to stay in the streets, as well as the spread of the struggle to other Egyptian cities, the civilian government ? that is, the politicians who provide a civilian cover to the US-backed military ? offered to resign. It was an important concession to the strength of the mass movement.

The struggle comes at a tense time politically because national elections are scheduled to begin on 28th November. People expect the Muslim Brotherhood to do well in the elections, since it is the best organised of the many groups that opposed Mubarak.

For this reason, the Brotherhood, after calling the first protest demonstration in Tahrir Square on Friday 18th November, then called its organised forces off the streets so as not to give the military government a pretext to postpone the elections.

Last January and February, a massive uprising upended the Mubarak regime, surprising the world. The imperialist governments, in this case mainly the US, supported the general staff of the Egyptian army, with whom the Pentagon has had close relations since the late 1970s.

The New York Times calls the Egyptian army “long-time American allies and beneficiaries whose power survived Mr Mubarak’s departure.” (21st November) Washington looked to the officer corps to make cosmetic changes but to keep the old system virtually intact. It may be possible for the mass movement to win over the rank-and-file soldiers, but the senior officers are tied to the ruling class and to imperialism.

Now US officials are worried. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said earlier in November: “If, over time, the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest, and Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity.”

Along with the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, as the best organised force and one that does not challenge property relations, is expected to play a role in the new government.


There is also a secular opposition both to Mubarak and to the military regime.

This opposition has some elements that are conciliatory to imperialism and others that are decidedly anti-imperialist, and includes a minority of Marxist and other pro-socialist forces.

The imperialists and the Egyptian military have often tried to incite hostility between the Islamic and secular forces, or between Muslims and Coptic Christians.

However the latter have blamed the government, not the Muslims, for attacks that led to deaths within their community, like the dozens killed by security forces on 9th October.

In this latest demonstration, secular forces joined the demonstration originally called by the Muslim Brotherhood. Coptic Christians stood guard in Tahrir Square against the army while the Muslim demonstrators took time out to pray.

Both inside and outside these movements are the tens of millions of workers and other poor people in Egypt, in unions or not, who have been the motor force of the revolution. None of their basic demands like higher wages and more social benefits have been won yet.

These powerful mass forces impact on all the organisations. Their demands cannot be won through any government that conciliates with world imperialism. This next phase of the Egyptian revolution has just begun.