Egypt’s second eruption against military dictatorship

“He goes, we won’t!”

– referring to General Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), this was the slogan taken up by tens of thousands of workers and young people demonstrating across Egypt in what is already being called the “Second Revolution” of 2011. Having brought down the hated, decades-old dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in February through bitter mass struggle, the people have again taken to the streets to prevent the continuation of an authoritarian regime and ensure the change they have fought for is not lost.

Following Mubarak’s fall, the SCAF took power, promising to bring “stability” and swiftly hand power over to a civilian government. There was much suspicion of the generals among the revolution’s activists but, exhausted by the struggle, the masses were willing to give the military a chance. The military quickly moved to bring the mass movement to an end, physically clamping down on protests and ordering people out of the squares. They began huge repression of political activists who challenged the military’s rule, with one blogger being imprisoned simply for writing a critical article!

In a move which enraged the Egyptian people, the SCAF sought to enshrine their independence from any future civilian government in the new constitution, which is to be drawn up following parliamentary elections. Many correctly feel that the elections scheduled for November 28th cannot be genuinely free and fair under the military’s rule and some opposition groups are calling for a boycott. They also tried to push the presidential election back to 2013.

This drove hundreds of young people to re-occupy Tahrir Square – the symbolic heart of the movement against Mubarak – on Friday 18th November. The military launched a brutal assault on the protesters, which drew tens of thousands of workers to come to their defence. This sparked a wave of protests across the country demanding the immediate handing over of power to a civilian government. Initially, the SCAF talked tough and tried to drive people off the streets, even firing live bullets on demonstrators, killing at least 33 and injuring hundreds.

However, it became clear this was only making the masses more determined. Instead, they then offered concessions such as the immediate formation of a “government of national salvation” and bringing the presidential elections forward. This has failed to satisfy the workers and young people who see that the SCAF are only interested in defending their own power and privileges.

As we go to print, the demonstrations are continuing across the country. We cannot say exactly in what direction the movement will develop. There is no mass socialist party capable of uniting the working class and poor around a programme for genuine revolutionary change. It is likely that some form of “civilian” government will be formed in the near future. However, any government that does not break from the system of capitalism will be unable to satisfy the needs and demands of the Egyptian people – genuine democracy, an end to poverty, decent jobs, housing and public services for all.

The Egyptian people must take power into their own hands, building a government based upon representatives of workers and poor farmers out of the struggle. Such a government could take the country’s massive wealth out of the hands of the elite and Western big business and use it in a democratic and planned way to transform the lives of ordinary Egyptians and act as a beacon for the oppressed masses in the Arab world fighting Western-backed dictatorships.

 

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