Thursday, February 10, 2011
Egyptian Revolution on the Brink
"All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air." -- Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848
Millions of people have been out in the streets of Egypt for over two weeks. Despite the daily predictions of the western media that the revolution is about to run out of steam, each day brings demonstrations bigger than the day before. According to eyewitnesses, the streets have become a huge festival of mass democracy. And yet the American-backed dictator Mubarak clings intransigently to power.
American diplomats are trying desperately to straddle both sides of the fence. On the one hand Obama claims to support democracy. On the other hand his diplomat sent to negotiate with Mubarak, Frank Wisner, turns out to work for companies with contracts with the Egyptian military and secret police: he's virtually an employee of Mubarak. After negotiations Wisner said, "Mubarak must stay in office in order to steer those changes through... This is an ideal moment for him to show the way forward." Obama proceeded to distance Wisner's position, and has been lining up behind new Vice President Omar Suleiman, head of the notorious Egyptian secret police. While Obama postures about the will of the Egyptian people, clearly he's concerned about letting things get out of control...of the American government and its Israeli allies.
So on the one side Mubarak and his massive security operation and control of the state. On the other the masses of Egyptian people of many classes and religions. In the middle is the Egyptian Army. The west seems to be desperate to find a leader it can impose on the revolution to make things nice.
And now the game has changed. Enter the Egyptian working class. I think it is no accident that today's dramatic events -- the rumor that Mubarak was stepping down, the rumor of a military seizure of power, and ultimately Mubarak's renewed intransigence -- are a direct response to the waking giant which has announced a series of political strikes. Because it is the Egyptian working class, with its hands on the gears of the Egyptian economy that has the power to push this revolution through to its righteous end. More than the rule of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood the rulers of Egypt and their sponsors in Washington and elsewhere fear the power of the conscious and self-aware majority of the Egyptian people, unbeholden to the corrupt arrangements that perpertuate the rule of the dictator and his henchmen. They are terrified by what the unchecked success of the Egyptian revolution might mean for the other despotic rulers in the region. And they are freaking out about what this might mean for the struggle of the Palestinian people held in check by sellouts and betrayals. And the working people of Egypt have the power to break the stalemate; to split the army; to prevent the revolution being derailed by a new, replacement dictator at the helm of the same old same old.
The contrasts are now starker than ever. It's all out in the open. The U.S. must cut the strings to its puppet. The Egyptian people can see that the Americans are trying to attach those puppet strings to someone else and are rightly outraged. What the U.S. can do to help is pull its support from the Egyptian security apparatus and military.
The working class is about to speak. They can bring victory to the revolution. The days ahead are more dangerous than ever, but the prize is there waiting. The following statement was issued by a group of Egyptian revolutionary socialists a fes short days before the current strikes were announced:
"Call to Egyptian workers to join the ranks of the revolution
The demonstrations and protests have played a key role in igniting and continuing our revolution. Now we need the workers. They can seal the fate of the regime. Not only by participating in the demonstrations, but by organising a general strike in all the vital industries and large corporations.
The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon. Strike on the railways, on public transport, the airports and large industrial companies! Egyptian Workers! On behalf of the rebellious youth, and on behalf of the blood of our martyrs, join the ranks of the revolution, use your power and victory will be ours!" -- Revolutionary Socialism Egypt (English translation from Lenin's Tomb.)
Many analysts predict that a massacre is brewing. There is certainly a real confrontation on the way. Who knows what's going to happen: I sure don't. But I'm inspired, and hopeful.
(According to the Angry Arab news service, the Arabic sign above reads "Down with Omar Suleiman, the Man of Israel.")