Protests in Egypt on Sunday 30 June marked a new stage of the revolution.
Called to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Mohammed Morsi’s Presidency, and with estimates of 13 million attending nationwide, the protests demanded fresh elections and the President’s resignation and have once again highlighted the need for socialists to organise and argue for a workers’ government.
The “Tamarod” (Rebel) protests have continued, already winning minor victories with at least four ministers quitting the Cabinet.
Since January 2011 there have been many twists and turns in the Egyptian revolution. Democratic demands have often been accompanied by an expression of the revolution’s social character, in the form of workers’ strikes and occupations, protesters demanding social justice and moves to oust “mini-Mubarak” bosses.
The Muslim Brotherhood has cooperated with business interests, and in cooperation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Morsi has opted for physical force to disperse opponents.
In the context of economic crisis and a proposed $4.8 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund, Morsi has intensified market liberalisation. The consequences have been devastating and resulted in the effective collapse of the Egyptian pound; there has been a 12% devaluation in the first six months of 2013 alone.
While shortages in wheat and other basic commodities continue, military spending has increased by $3.4billion — far exceeding the £1.4billion military aid that the Egyptian state gets every year from the United States.
This is the context in which Tamarod, initiated by youth activists, emerged and was able to gather 15 million signatures for its petition — more than the number of votes that Morsi received last year.
But the 30 June protests and the Tamarod petition will not be enough to bring down the regime.
In 2011, it was the interaction of the protest movement with workers’ struggle that paralysed the regime and realised the revolutionary potential of the movement, forcing Mubarak to step down.
Today the situation is different. The economic and political crises — the declaration of the Shura Council as illegitimate — have deepened. The masses possess a collective knowledge of their revolutionary potential. Rightly, the Revolutionary Socialists (linked to the British SWP) have called for a general strike until the regime falls (alturl.com/7eugs). Yet questions are posed about what should replace Morsi.
In response to the protests, Brotherhood thugs have been unleashed. They have made violent attacks on the revolutionary opposition — sixteen were killed on Sunday alone.
State security forces are for now staying away, but there is no guarantee that will continue.
On Monday 1 July, General Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi, the head of the armed forces, appointed by Morsi, delivered Morsi an ultimatum: either meet the demands of protesters by Wednesday 3 July, 4pm, or a new “road map” will be announced.
Unfortunately, judging by reports, the military ultimatum has been largely welcomed by protesters, seeing it as a step towards their demands. As Tamarod spokesman Mahmoud Badr responded, the military “crowns our movement”.
Yet for all claims about the independence of the military and their aim to foster reconciliation between government and opposition camps, SCAF remains the bedrock of the Egyptian state. All Presidents since Gamal Nasser have rested upon it; SCAF has its own economic interest in the neo-liberal project.
The danger of SCAF ruling directly and staging a coup is very real. That would signal revolutionary defeat. Whether Morsi will buckle remains to be seen.
The task at hand is: the rescuing of revolution and a readiness to struggle against the National Salvation Front, the largest opposition group and an organisation that itself encompasses remnants of the old regime.
Despite claims to be an opponent of Brotherhood authoritarianism, NSF leaders have attended secret meetings with the Brotherhood and wants to avoid direct confrontation with SCAF. Their difference with Morsi’s Brotherhood is primarily one of emphasis. Both are opposed to the deepening of the revolution, but the NSF opposes the Brotherhood’s Islamist character.
At heart the NSF is but another tendency among capitalist forces; all lack a political programme expressing the revolution’s social character.
Its National Coordinator, Mohammed el-Baradei is a former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation under the auspices of the United Nations. Like the Brotherhood, it is based on the same social-economic strategy — market policies and capitalist realism.
With the cards being stacked by SCAF, the formation of an independent working-class political platform, centred on popular democracy and social justice, becomes ever more paramount.
The urgent necessities are: winning rank-and-file soldiers to the revolution, placing working-class interests at the heart of the opposition, and the presentation of an alternative revolutionary programme to the butchers and hidden enemies of the revolution.