Egyptian Workers: Complete the Revolution!
Spreading uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa look to Egypt as a great example for their own struggles.
How the uprising in Egypt can inspire the world
As uprisings against tyranny continue to consume the Middle East and North Africa, sparked partly by the Tunisian events, but mainly by the Egyptian Revolution’s successful overthrow of the neo-monarchial Mubarak, working people and revolutionary youth in the Mid-East and around the world face a key question. Are these upsurges and revolutionary movements centrally about getting rid of dictators and establishing some form of democracy? Or are they really about the whole neo-colonial, socio-economic imperialist system that created and propped up most of the tyrants of the Middle East, and also grips the world in a punishing downward spiral of lowering living conditions and attacks on working people that grows directly out of its insatiable drive for profit?
The financial crisis in the imperialist centers, the massive, international commodities speculation that followed, and the huge upward transfer of wealth throughout the world—masquerading as a “debt crisis”—has already created ripples of protest and rebellion worldwide. Working people in Greece, France, Britain, Ireland, and now even the state of Wisconsin and other states in the American Midwest are battling hard against foreclosures, privatizations, cutbacks, massive unemployment, tuition and price increases, attacks on unions, and the outright robbery of being forced to pay off huge loans to the very set of banks and finance capitalists who caused the crisis in the first place. And capitalist governments everywhere, whether autocratic or “democratic,” are insisting that their people must pay the piper, and accept a brutal austerity so that the super rich finance capitalists can get richer.
Libya in flames
In the latest wave of protests and outright revolt, tyrannical rulers in the Middle East and North Africa, from Morocco to Iran and just about everywhere in between, are the chief targets of the mass uprisings. At this writing, Libya is the white-hot center of this broadening upsurge. Opposition to the 40-year rule of one man has led to what is now an outright civil war, in which perhaps as many as 600 to 1,000 have been killed in little more than a week, according to one close observer of the situation. Determined to remain in power, president-for-life Moammar Khadafy unleashed the dogs of war against his own people with unbridled brutality. Reports of dead bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and helicopters flying low over houses and randomly firing at anyone who moves on the ground, are bubbling out through cell phones, as Khadafy tries to choke off all information.
Khadafy made a rambling, semi-incoherent, and some would say insane televised diatribe in which he presented himself as a martyr (!) of Libyan independence from colonialism who is willing to be martyred again in this struggle against his own people. The irony of Khadafy’s “anti-colonialist” rant is lost on no one, as his regime now enjoys being the third largest oil supplier to the European Union, and has especially close relationships with both Britain and Italy, the former colonial power. But a bullet in the head could be what he gets fairly soon, as entire police and military units, including air force pilots, have gone over to the opposition, and protesters are arming themselves. Khadafy is already looking like a Hitlerian madman, holed up in a bunker in Tripoli, as the opposition now controls practically the whole eastern half of Libya, including Benghazi, the second largest city in the country, and most recently controls some cities in western Libya as well.
While the Khadafy regime was for years considered a rogue “terrorist” state, most of the other targeted autocracies are neo-colonial regimes that have been central to the U.S. imperialist network of client states for 30-40 years or more, with economies reeling under the grip of neo-liberal policies that allow easy exploitation by international speculators mostly based in imperialist centers. Unprecedented in modern times, these revolts are a strong harbinger of things to come, in an age in which the power of the imperialist center in the U.S. is beginning to weaken, and unravel.
Central to the Middle East uprisings is the February 2011 Revolution in Egypt
As Egypt is the largest of the Middle Eastern countries (82 million), and possessed of the most powerful and active labor movement in the region, a rising there was bound to be an inspiration and a model for revolts against similar regimes around the region and world. Paraphrasing one protester, if people in Tunisia provided a spark for Egyptians, the Egyptian people have sent out a spark to the whole world. Even some of the tens-of-thousands of union protesters in Wisconsin have said, “This is our Egypt.” And while the now-famous 18 days of consistent and heroic protests by huge masses of working-class and middle-class Egyptians in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were mainly led by unemployed young college graduates with cell phones and Facebook pages, the revolt was driven forward by a massive explosion of strikes by fed-up workers in many Egyptian cities.
The tyrant Mubarak was finally forced to resign on February 11th. Surrounded by sycophants and unclear on the reality of the situation, Mubarak’s last statement in which he refused to resign came as he was pressured from his family to stay on at all costs to protect their ill-gotten wealth. Forced out the very next day, Mubarak resembled nothing so much as the last Czar of Russia, who abdicated the throne in the face of a mass upsurge in the first wave of the Great Russian Revolution, in February 1917.
According to most of the protesters, this was just the beginning. As one put it, “We’ve gotten rid of Mubarak; now we have to get rid of the Mubarak dictatorship.” And what a dictatorship Mubarak’s regime was. Riddled with nepotism and massive corruption at all levels, Mubarak’s administration survived only through blatantly rigged elections, and by instilling a climate of fear in the populace through unbridled police terror and torture. The rigging of the parliamentary election of 2010 was so transparent that someone on the inside sent video clips of poll workers filling out stacks of ballots for Mubarak’s party, which were all over YouTube. In the end, after an increasingly brutal, last ditch struggle to cling to power, Mubarak slunk off as a used-up relic.
The mother of all Egyptian tyrannies
The Egyptian army tops, organized in a council of generals, seeing that Mubarak had outlived his usefulness, sent him out to pasture in the “resort” town of Sharm el Sheikh, in order to avoid the “chaos” that Mubarak warned about, should he have to leave. The military could do this easily, since they are the mother of all Egyptian tyrannies. Since the British puppet king Farouk was overthrown in 1952 in a coup led by military officers, the military has been the real employer of all Egyptian governments. It was the military that put Gamel Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak in power, each of whom arose directly out of the military. This series of regimes was consolidated under Mubarak into one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the Arab world. Secret police arrested and tortured political opponents and common criminals at will, and political parties only existed with state permission. Although he’s left, and there’s been no chaos, the real masters of the state have a plan to contain the revolution, and their plan targets workers first and foremost.
The generals set aside Mubarak’s fraudulent constitution, dissolved his blatantly rigged crony-parliament, and promised a revised constitution in ten days. This miraculously quick fix to a complex mess was to be drafted in private by a committee of “experts” appointed by the generals. A referendum on this “new” constitution was to follow in two months, with general elections to follow in September. The army tops had calculated exactly what the minimum was that they had to do to get the protesters to go home and the workers back to work. This has been their “job” for decades. But the communiqués from the military included increasingly harsh threats to workers to get back to work or else.
The lies and the reality: U.S. imperialism
Meanwhile, the U.S. overlords under Obama claim to be oh-so friendly to aspirations of the masses for democratic reform in the Middle East and North Africa right now. Their options? They don’t really have much choice. Either get on the “democratic” bandwagon now, or risk losing the ability to control any new regimes that may emerge once the smoke has settled in the Middle East. Never mind that they supported Mubarak (to the tune of $55 billion over 30 years, almost all for the military), and other dictators like him (Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, etc.) for decades. After all, they also supported Saddam Hussein well before going for “regime change” against him.
The “regime change” thing swings both ways. A couple decades earlier, the U.S. helped install the Shah of Iran through a CIA-engineered coup against a democratically elected regime that had nationalized the oil industry, which the U.S. thought belonged to it. For the U.S., it’s whatever works for “us.” Protecting U.S. interests in economic resources such as oil, and the ability for U.S. capital to freely penetrate these post-colonial economies, is the predominate consideration.
Intentional feed to Wikileaks?
The question has been raised; did the U.S. consciously help start these Middle East revolts, by leaking secret diplomatic cables about corruption in Tunisia to Wikileaks? Of course the U.S. has no interest in seeing revolutionary movements, which could threaten its most closely held interests in the region. So, no, while they MAY have made such leaks, they absolutely didn’t want today’s upsurges. But did the U.S. want reform? Absolutely. The top echelons of the U.S. government make stupid mistakes, but don’t count on that to be the case in every instance. In this case, they wanted reform at the palace level, because they saw, as did the Egyptian military on February 11th, that dictators like Mubarak have outlived their usefulness. A rigid and transparently corrupt regime is not a good bet for protecting the interests of U.S. financial imperialism for very long. Bottom line: the U.S. wanted change precisely in order to avoid today’s mass popular rebellions!1
This goes to the heart of how the modern imperialist-dominated world works, so a bit of history is in order. In 1956, Egypt under Gamel Abdul Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, thereby completing the expropriation of British interests in Egypt, which had begun in 1952. After much hand wringing in European capitals, a coalition of British, French and Israeli forces was put together to take the Canal back through military intervention. Just as this “coalition” force was poised to finish off Egyptian military resistance, the U.S. under Dwight D. Eisenhower put an end to the effort, and, in effect, supported an upstart pan-Arab nationalist against its “sister” imperialists who were seeking to get “their” property back. Why did this apparently anti-imperialist act on the part of the U.S. happen?
There’s a new sheriff in town: U.S. imperialism
Prior to World War II, imperialism consisted principally of colonial occupation, in which European powers like France and Britain physically owned colonies such as Egypt, in order to extract wealth of one sort or another. In order to enforce this “paradigm,” so to speak, shooting people down in the streets was the normal response. In Egypt in 1919, the year in which rebellions spread throughout the world in response to the Russian Revolution of 1917, British troops slaughtered thousands to crush an uprising against British rule. But after World War II, the flames of rebellion spread throughout the world, from Africa to the Indian sub-continent to China and South Asia. Exhausted and war-ravaged imperialist centers were unable to control these massive outpourings in the usual way. As a rule however, while some ex-colonial societies managed to escape capitalism, such as China, most produced “national liberation” regimes, which (while mouthing “socialism” in some cases) failed to definitively overthrow capitalism, and eventually, as in Egypt, became amenable to imperialist capital penetration. A new imperialist “paradigm” (there’s that word again) had fallen into place.
The U.S., through fits and starts, led the way. After taking over Spain’s Western Hemisphere and Asian colonies in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the U.S. brutally put down rebels in Cuba and the Philippines, and went on to intervene militarily more or less at will in what it considered to be its hemisphere. But the pattern that eventually emerged was not the same as European colonial imperialism: it was an imperialism that mainly operated through “independent” puppet regimes in countries that were colonized more through economic penetration and controls rather than through direct military occupation.
The real meaning of the Suez crisis of 1956
But in the Suez crisis of 1956, while different methods of imperialist control were involved in the background, they certainly were not front and center. What was front and center was U.S. dominance of the world. According to the U.S. ruling class, it, and no one else, had “won” World War II; and this was now the “American Century.” (It was actually the Soviet Red Army that defeated the vast bulk of the German army, while the U.S. dithered on an invasion of Europe, but that’s another story.) In the Suez crisis, the U.S. gave the word to British and French imperialism that it, the U.S., and no one else, would be top dog. The British got the message: there would not be another British imperialist initiative without close cooperation with the U.S., and U.S. approval. It was the final death knell of the British Empire.
Ironically, as an Arab nationalist who nationalized the Canal and other industries, Nasser didn’t work out that well for U.S. imperialism. But through the Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak regimes, all has been made well. Nasser may have talked pan-Arab “socialism,” but he was a top-down autocrat who was owned by the military. Though mostly nationalized, the Egyptian economy was never controlled by the workers who produced the wealth, nor was it definitively removed from the international capitalist market.
How the U.S. tries to get control of the situation today
Flash forward to the present day. What are the problems facing the U.S.? Mostly, it’s that puppet regimes have become nonviable, people are in the streets in open rebellion, and the outcomes are uncertain. But the U.S. knows, and has learned from, the chief lessons of the class struggle. It (that is, the U.S. ruling class) has learned these lessons better than the working class has. The lesson in this case is that you can no longer control colonial people by simply shooting them down in the street, as the British did in 1919 and as Khadafy is doing today. It doesn’t work. There are too many of them, and not enough mercenaries willing to go to their own deaths defending some tyrant. Instead you use much more subtle controls, in which economic penetration is combined with promotion of regimes that work. Whether autocratic or “democratic,” they must be able to either keep the people in fear or control them through false consciousness. The question becomes, when and how to intervene (through “regime change,” or more subtle “reform”) to manipulate the situation.
In the present situation in Egypt and the Middle East, promotion of “democracy” is the only hope for the U.S. With the whole region in a state of revolt, the consciousness of the masses becomes critical. The fact that the dominant consciousness so far seems to be “democratic” in nature is a great boon to the U.S. In the present-day world of total domination and control by U.S.-centered financial and corporate interests, “democracy” is a blessing. In “democracy,” everyone, both rich and poor, has the same right to sleep under bridges and pick up scraps of food off the ground. But talk of expropriation is forbidden. This is just the way the world’s bourgeoisie has wanted it, since the French Revolution of 1789.
Some of the protesters were taken in by the array of promises offered by the military after Mubarak’s ouster, but not all. Many of the Tahrir Square protesters had in fact been victimized, arrested and tortured by the army in the days of protest before Mubarak resigned. The army had also facilitated attacks on the protesters by thugs and plain-clothes police (some on horses and camels and waving swords) sent by Mubarak’s Interior Ministry, before sealing the square against them. And after two days of jubilation in the streets over Mubarak’s departure, and declarations of “the army and the people are one,” a different reality quickly emerged as the generals began to make almost daily threats against strikers, demanding a return to work. Meanwhile in Tahrir Square, some called on people to leave the square in the days after Mubarak’s fall, others chanted “we will not leave until our demands have been met.”
Getting rid of Mubarak had been the over-arching focus and main point of unity for the protesters. And while virtually none said that the ousting of the tyrant was all there was to it, contradictions and differences immediately began to manifest themselves once he was gone. While most were clear on getting rid of all the holdovers from Mubarak’s regime still in government, many started emphasizing various individual demands, such expropriating the vast wealth of Mubarak and his family (some estimates go as high as $70 billion), or releasing the political prisoners taken hostage during the 18 days. But the chief contradiction broke along class lines, and focused on demands for a democratic reform of government versus the rampant social issues such as poverty, unemployment, and low wages. One protester said the following in an interview published on Alternet:
“Many analysts in the media speak of Egypt’s economy, they say that the economic growth did not trickle down to the poor and this is why this is happening. This is too simplistic. This revolution is not about poverty or need. The people in the streets from all walks of life, rich and poor, are there because they want freedom, freedom, freedom...”2
The masses of striking and protesting Egyptian workers, facing chronic unemployment or under-employment, low wages, rising food prices, having to take two jobs to feed their families, and unable to get a decent education for their children because of the decrepit state of public schools, or unable to get a decent job because of the need to bribe somebody, surely take a dim view of that statement.
The question was thus posed: simple “regime change,” or social revolution?
In Egypt, the social-democratic, top-down “socialism” of Gamel Abdul Nasser has long only been a distant memory. Although Egyptians retain some of the benefits of the original Nasser regime on paper at least (everyone is entitled to a free college education), privatization has gutted most of these gains. Colleges are plagued with reduced wages for teachers and classes of 3,000, while so-called “public” hospitals now routinely turn away even emergency patients who can’t afford to pay.
A come-and-get-it policy on steroids
Following waves of increasing privatizations of Nasser’s state industries, Egypt in 2004-08 under Mubarak embarked on a come-and-get-it policy on steroids. Similar to an increasingly liberal policy toward foreign investors in Tunisia, and driven by the U.S. banking system and its rapacious toxic assets machine, it was an economic free-for-all that entailed selling large pieces of Egypt’s banks to the highest international bidder. As foreign financial interests gobbled up Egyptian banks, Egypt also eased the rules on foreign property investment, creating a magnet for global real estate speculation, making Egypt a hot spot for tourist-oriented investment. And as if that wasn’t enough, Egypt (and the United Arab Emirates) even eliminated capital requirements for investment, meaning that speculators could buy whatever they wanted with no money down, which encourages speculative movement of capital, and does nothing for local economies (and in fact creates negative results).3
As time went on, there was a downturn in the second half of 2009, as oil prices fell and foreign banks slashed their holdings in Arabic countries. Enter Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal Mubarak, who became the de facto ruler and designated “heir” of this so-called (what was that again?) “republic.” (Since when do republics have “heirs?”) Gamal Mubarak, as effective ruler, reordered the domestic agenda through key ministers and sycophantic allies in the ruling NDP (National Democratic Party), and consciously rigged the 2010 parliamentary elections, thereby undermining Mubarak senior’s rules of political engagement: limited oppression with safety valves is preferable to total control of society.4
International speculation causes food price hike
Meanwhile, in March 2008, there was a dramatic hike in food prices that led thousands of Egyptian people on the brink of starvation to riot. This problem was caused by unfettered speculation by investment banks in commodities’ trading following the crash of the housing market in 2007, as well as deregulation of commodities markets that occurred under the Clinton administration. Following the 2000 deregulation, “dark” unregulated futures trading markets emerged, created by Wall Street, European investment banks and several oil companies.
“These transactions didn’t involve customary bone fide commodity traders, such as an airline company hedging on the price of jet fuel by purchasing futures contracts. As prominent hedge funds manager Michael McMasters noted before a U.S. Senate panel in 2008, this amounts to ‘a form of electronic hoarding and greatly increases the inflationary effect of the market. It literally means starvation for millions of the world’s poor’.”5
Workers were generally less sanguine than most about the military takeover, as they immediately mounted an escalating series of protests and strikes over notoriously bad wages, lousy working conditions, and rising prices of food and other commodities, in an attempt to seize initiative in the opening provided by the temporary lifting of the Mubarak regime’s reign of fear. In reply, the military immediately began a crack down.
Yet these were just the sorts of conditions, which have been sending masses of Egyptian working people into the streets for years. A 2009 AFL-CIO report indicated that over 1.7 million workers engaged in more than 1900 strikes and other forms of protest from 2004 to 2008.6 And in April of 2008 there was a major labor action that spilled over into a popular uprising in the textile/industrial city of Mahala. Labor activists organized two days of massive protests that saw roads being blocked and local residents leaving their homes and pulling down Mubarak’s pictures and posters for the first time since he came into office in 1981.7
As for workers’ strikes, under Mubarak, all unions had to belong to a government-controlled labor federation run by Mubarak’s flunkies. Strikes were illegal if not approved by this federation, which signed off on maybe three out of the perhaps tens-of-thousands of workers’ strikes that took place under Mubarak’s 30-year reign. Although strikes did win some gains (such as a big raise in the minimum wage), in most cases, police, tanks and sometimes troops were called out to suppress them. Always acting independently of Mubarak, workers are now organizing their own unions and federation. Defend the right to strike! Make the right to organize independently of the government legal!
Rapidly spreading uprisings face similar problems
What we are looking at now is something that we have never seen before in history. In the age of neo-liberal globalization, we now have a world in which imperialist control, through domination by financial penetration of all capitalist countries/markets, is so total, that it’s getting harder and harder to make national distinctions as to conditions of struggle. The fact is that imperialist capitalism is everywhere; it’s dominating everything; and it provides the causal substrate to each society’s problems. Thus, in the Middle East, when Egypt blows, uprisings follow all around the region: most of these countries have exactly the same problems. It’s becoming more and more obvious that we need an international revolutionary perspective and program to point to an international, proletarian, revolutionary solution, based on overthrowing capitalism, and instituting workers’ rule.
The huge “victory march” held in Cairo on Friday, February 18th, one week after Mubarak’s departure, while nascent leadership figures declared it to have the purpose of holding the military’s feet to the fire on protesters’ demands, and while it did show determination on the part of the masses to see the revolution materialize in real gains, came dangerously close to being a simple celebration of the ouster of the tyrant, or, as the military statement put it, “the people have won.” The people have not yet won! Like the Russian masses who overthrew the Czar in February 1917, they have only achieved the first step.
Revolutionary tasks still not finished!
Not only have the people not yet won, but there is a dark threat looming over the revolutionary masses from above. This was made clear by the army council’s harshest threat against striking workers so far, in which it said it would no longer allow “illegal” demonstrations that stop production and will take action against them. “Illegal” “demonstrations” that stop production? Wasn’t the entire 18-day revolt in Tahrir Square an “illegal” demonstration that stopped production? This is the heart of the Mubarak dictatorship still showing its fangs.
Any repetition of state suppression of workers strikes and sit-downs such as happened under Mubarak (even if done by “legal” means at first)—if the military is allowed to get away with it—will be the beginning of the end of the Egyptian Revolution. Now, the most urgent task of the revolution is to support workers, defend and extend strikes, and mobilize against any attempt by the military to suppress them. Unraveling the Mubarak dictatorship should also involve the arrest and prosecution of secret police torturers, thugs, criminals, and hangers-on guilty of crimes against society.
The greatest threat
But an even greater threat to the revolution than that presented by the continued military domination of the state is the confidence that so many of the protesters seem to have (to varying degrees, to be sure) in the ability and willingness of the military government to carry through on their wishes. Most people in the street seem willing to support the military “in so far as” it carries out the democratic tasks, which protesters have called for. But the military tops—the very same who yesterday were Mubarak’s friends and allies—still have power, and they are acting in secret! Instead of appointing a committee of experts to “re-write” the constitution in ten days behind closed doors, there should be an elected constituent assembly to come up with a new basic document of state. The military can’t do this, because all they care about is “stability”—in translation, that means the safety of their billions and the billions of the rest of the capitalist ruling class. But the people in the streets could demand it, and win it, if they apply the same determination that they showed in forcing Mubarak out.
People in the streets forced the Czar out in February 1917 in Russia. But by that time, the Czar was little more than a front man for the real rulers, the capitalist class and large landholders. When he abdicated, they set up a “Provisional Government” to tide things over. The people had “won”... or had they? The real issues, which had been summed up in the slogan, “peace, land, and bread,” were unchanged. The Provisional government tried to continue the losing, and brutal inter-imperialist war with Germany; they refused to expropriate the big landholders who oppressed the majority peasants; and they were unable to provide the basic food needs of the people. So another revolution, the October Revolution, was needed.
“Peace” deal means billions for the military
Egypt today may have Facebook (which can get cancelled along with the rest of the internet at the whim of tyrants), but it is actually very similar to Russia in February 1917. The Egyptian military’s “provisional government” maintains a cruel war against the Palestinians, which is the result of Anwar Sadat’s having signed the Camp David Accords and a peace treaty with Israel. (It is since then that the Egyptian military has been enriched by a steady stream of U.S. billions.) And as land in Egypt is snapped up for private use, and the international commodities market drives up the price of food, Egyptian working people are the victims.
Furthermore, any democratic reforms that the army council does institute can be manipulated, as long as the corrupt and rapacious capitalist class—which includes rich generals and rich retired generals by the boatload, hiding in their gated communities in the desert—remains in power. But why should they retain power? What did they do to overthrow Mubarak, to make this revolution? They were the power behind Mubarak, the boss of Mubarak, and the heart of the Mubarak dictatorship that the protesters want to see gone. And they—the generals who now want to outlaw strikes once again—know the importance of those workers that they want to get back to work, because it is they, the workers, that create all wealth. And if I’m not mistaken, that would refer to (what they think is) THEIR wealth, the billions that they’ve extracted and stolen from honest working people for decades! How much of it did they actually create themselves? Answer: none. It’s not their wealth; it belongs to the people, the working people who created it. This is not just about Mubarak’s billions, it’s about the billions or trillions, siphoned off the labor of workers around the world by ruling classes.
To working people belongs the power!
So, to the working people belongs the power! To the masses of workers (whether striking or not), the unemployed youth with cell phones and Facebook, and the middle-class people, old and young, willing to support working people, who laid their lives on the line to come out to Tahrir Square—to them belongs the power! But most of them don’t see it that way now—they think the military will give it to them, and therein lies the danger to the revolution. They need to take it themselves. It’s their revolution to lose, or win!
The revolution in Egypt will never be complete if it stagnates, waits for handouts from the military, and fails to take on the socio- economic problems caused by capitalism and imperialism. Already there are rumors that Mubarak is still manipulating things behind the scenes, while the military maintains a number of his loyalists in the cabinet, and works in private to palm off Mubarak’s rigged constitution to the people with a few Band-Aids on it. And the standard of living of masses of people will be impossible to improve as long as national capitalists continue to rake in billions in their gated communities, and as long as the economy remains trapped within the imperialist financial web.
Egyptian workers: take the lead, go forward!
Furthermore, a “liberated” Egypt, which continues to work in alliance with Israel and the U.S. to imprison Gazan Palestinians in their own mini-state, and generally looks the other way as Israel continues to build settlements and bulldoze Palestinians off the land, is not really a revolution worth the name. But the Egyptian revolution so far is already an international inspiration to millions! A completed revolution would actively work with the other uprisings throughout the Middle East and the world, starting with: break the blockade of Gaza! Help the people there rebuild, and provide support for Palestinian and anti-Zionist Israeli working people to fight together for a liberated workers’ Palestine in which all ethnicities can live side by side in peace, cooperation and safety!
Egyptian workers, who have been struggling independently around front-line economic issues for years, now have a unique opportunity to lead the revolution forward to a true liberation of the Egyptian people. This would be a liberation from the yoke of capitalism and imperialism, and it would be a liberation that they would democratically control from top to bottom. Again, the example of the Revolution of 1917 in Russia is instructive. After the overthrow of the Czar in February, and the evident refusal of the Provisional Government to solve any of the fundamental problems, the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin and Trotsky fought to complete the revolution. They called for no support to the Provisional Government, and for the workers to take the power through their soviets (workers’ councils).
The example of the Bolsheviks
Once the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917 and formed a soviet government, society was restructured to put the interests of ordinary working people first. Big landowners were expropriated, the land was nationalized, and the peasants were supported in working land that formerly was denied to them. The soviet government also managed to extract Russia from the brutal horrors of World War I, by signing a peace treaty with the Germans. And while the revolution was set upon by reactionary “white” armies and imperialist intervention (including by the U.S.), banks and industries were nationalized to prepare the way for worker-controlled production for use, not profit.
In Egypt today, workers do not have either workers councils or a Bolshevik-Leninist (Trotskyist) leadership. But during the 18 days, workers organized defense guards in the neighborhoods to protect against “looters” (most likely Mubarak’s thugs, or prisoners set free by the regime to wreak havoc), and they set up checkpoints around Tahrir Square to prevent provocateurs from bringing in weapons. The next step now could, and should be the formation of delegated workers councils, which could begin to exercise local and regional government functions, and eventually be able to challenge the military for power. Such workers councils could demand the release of political prisoners still held by the state, oppose any confidence in the Mubarak-without-Mubarak government, and demand the immediate election of a peoples’ constituent assembly. Along with this should go the development of cells in the army, and maintenance of organized, armed defense guards, to undermine and defend against army attacks on striking workers or the peoples’ movement.
And to those with the vision to see the need to carry the revolution forward to completion: build a Bolshevik style party! Follow the lead offered by Lenin and Trotsky and the Russian Revolution! Do not waver! The revolution must go ahead; so that one-day soon we’ll see a great victory that will shake the world. And then we’ll be able to say, long live the Egyptian October!
Chris Kinder is an Oakland activist, socialist and coordinator of the Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
1 For an interesting piece on how the U.S. pushed for palace reform is Virginia Tilley, “No ‘Berlin Moment,’ In Egypt,” at: http://mondoweiss.net/2011/01/no-berlin-moment-in-egypt.html
2 Michael Winship, “Insider’s Account of Egypt: ‘A Truly Civilized, Peaceful People Who Decided to Regain Control of Their Destiny,’“ 12 February 2011, www.alternet.org/story/149899
3 Nomi Prins, “The Egyptian Uprising Is a Direct Response to Ruthless Global Capitalism,” 04 February 2011, www.alternet.org/story/149793. Nomi Prins is a senior fellow at the public policy center Demos, and author of, Behind the Bailouts: Bonuses, and Backroom Deals.
4 Larbi Sadiki, “Inception: Dreams of Revolution,” Al Jazeera, 02 February 2011
5 Robert Alvarez, “Food, Egypt and Wall Street,” Counter Punch, February 4-6, 2011. Robert Alvarez is an Institute for Policy Studies Senior Scholar.
6 Jane Slaughter, “In Egypt, the Strikers Take Center Stage,” Labor Notes/Counterpunch, 10 February 2011
7 Emad McKay, “Egypt Labor Not Resting After Mubarak’s Ouster,” The Electronic Intifada, February 15, 2011