Jul 22, 2013
The following article is translated from the July 12 edition of Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle], the newspaper of the organization of French revolutionary Trotskyists of the same name.
Two years ago the working people of Egypt drove out General Mubarak, who had imposed his dictatorship over the country for 30 years. Now, a second, more powerful wave of protests has occurred. Perhaps 15 to 20 million Egyptians demonstrated, a considerable number in a country of 83 million people.
The army general staff immediately intervened, deciding to kick out the new president, Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Showing its true face, the army deliberately shot at a crowd of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, killing more than 50.
Morsi came to power in an election, but he set up a regime every bit as harsh and undemocratic as Mubarak’s. This regime was especially harsh to the poor population and women, the immense majority of Egyptians. Morsi’s regime didn’t have a lot of support, as the immense size of the crowds of protesters against him showed.
The representatives of the great powers, including Obama for the United States, pretended to be concerned by the army’s decision to overthrow an elected government. In fact, the attitude of the Egyptian army doesn’t bother U.S. rulers. They have the means to control it and dictate its choices. The army is financed in great part by the U.S., and its officers were trained at U.S. military academies. The Egyptian army has long been a mainstay of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
What the U.S. worried about were the tens of millions of Egyptian men and women who don’t accept the choice coming out of last year’s election in June 2012, and who, having experienced the upheavals, know how to say, “No, this isn’t what we want!”
The protesters weren’t content to wait for the next election date set by the men in power. The protesters have spoken directly and loudly about what they no longer want, taking themselves again to the streets. And by these actions, they reaffirmed what they want: freedom, of course, but also work and bread.
Some in Egypt, at least those whose views are conveyed by the media here, present the Egyptian army as a shield, as the guarantor of the popular will and as the instrument that will allow the satisfaction of working people’s demands.
We don’t know exactly what the reality is in Egypt and in particular, how and in what direction popular opinion is evolving. But to believe, or to suggest, that others ought to believe that the army and its officers can realize the aspirations of millions of protesters is to have illusions and to sow illusions. The consequences could be tragic.
Certainly, the Egyptian army is a conscript army, which organizes in its midst several hundred thousand men, who have close ties with the population. This makes the army rank and file highly sensitive to popular wishes.
But it isn’t this part of the army that decided. The officer caste decided, a caste that over the generations has had instilled in it a profound scorn for popular aspirations. The laboring classes can’t expect a thing from them.
In order for the aspirations of working people to be realized, in Egypt as elsewhere, there must be militants, numerous and experienced, capable of offering revolutionary perspectives to the working class, perspectives based on the interests of the working class, not in the wake of one group or another of pretended supreme saviors.
Apparently, militants with such perspectives don’t exist in Egypt – at least not in large numbers. But it’s not impossible that some could be produced by events like this.