Egypt: Mubarak has fallen, the capitalist regime and the bourgeois State remain
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 7; Summer 2011)
Much to the jubilation of the throngs of demonstrators Hosni Mubarak has announced his resignation, handing his powers to the army. The strongman who just a few hours before wanted to be the defender of the constitution and the ultimate bul wark against the “chaos”, has thus ratified a kind of cold coup d’Etat (according to the constitution the president of parliament should take over power).
All the maneuvers and proclamations of the government could not prevent the clashes and massive protests which followed one after the other for 18 days in Egypt. On Friday, February 11 a throng even more massive than at previous demonstrations took to the streets of Cairo and other major cities, despite the declarations of Mubarak saying he was abandoning the real power to his vice-president.
After the first few demonstrations involving some thousands of people, especially petit-bourgeois youth mobilized via the Internet, “specialists from the Arab world ”and other “informed commentators” learnedly explained that the Mubarak regime was solid and that a situation such as in Tunisia was impossible in Egypt. The eruption of tens of thousands of demonstrators from the neighborhoods of Cairo during demonstrations on Jan.26 and 28 has completely changed the situation. It was not just in Cairo but in other major Egyptian cities that huge masses poured out screaming their hatred of the power, muscling the police out of the way through sheer numbers.
Nothing could be done: not the cutting of internet and mobile telephone networks, not the censorship of the media, not the ferocity of the repression (more than 300 dead in early February), nor the half-concessions of Mubarak, could prevent this human tidal wave whose source lies in the increasingly miserable conditions of life of the proletarianized masses. For the ruling circles of the Egyptian bourgeoisie, like those of other Arab countries in the region and U.S. and European imperialism, the question was how to successfully contain the anger expressed in the streets and squares of Egypt, to prevent the revolt from becoming insurrection or indeed tranform itself into revolution.
Above all, the last few days have seen a new disquieting factor for the capitalists: the entry of the working class into the struggle. Calls have begun to circulate for a general strike and the first work stoppages were reported in the days before the departure of Mubarak. By February 10, tens of thousands of workers were on strike; it was the largest strike wave since the strikes in the textile industry in 2007-2008 – which had been severely repressed.
Strikes erupted in different jurisdictions, in the Cairo mass transit system and on the railways. In the Suez Canal Zone 3,000 oil workers went on strike. In the industrial region of Egypt, the delta where most of the Egyptian industry is located, a strike of 4,000 workers at a chemical plant at Al Nasr Helwan was reported, 2,000 workers (in fact mostly women workers) at the textile factory in the same city, 2000 also at the Sigma Pharmaceuticals plant in Quesna; in Al Mahalla, the center of the textile industry, the epicenter of the struggle of 2007-2008, an unlimited general strike was launched on February 10 at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Textile Factory, the biggest factory in Egypt, which employs 24,000 people, etc..
Their demands address low wages, (the minimum wage is only $ 70 per month), improved working conditions, the permanent hiring of temporary workers, etc..
All these strikes, of which we probably have only a small glimpse, were triggered independently of the official unions whose function is to maintain social peace and to prevent workers’struggles. Still partial, they are good signs for the future, provided that workers are able to organize on the basis of class, independent not only of the union apparatuses which have sold out to the bosses and the bourgeois state, but by rejecting all the false “brothers”who would use them for their bourgeois goals (such as those who stopped the strike at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Textiles Factory after Mubarak’s departure).
* * *
While Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, mortally afraid of the mass movement, have all pledged their continued support to Mubarak, the U.S. government has stepped up pressure for a “peaceful political transition ”, that is to say that he give way, the only way to prevent further clashes with incalculable risks: Mubarak was the fuse which had to be replaced to protect capitalism from a high voltage shock which the outburst of class struggle in the greatest country in the Middle East could not fail to produce, with repercussions throughout the region. Within the regime, Mubarak’s closest allies have probably toyed with the idea of an Iranian or Chinese alternative: the crushing of protest, after the inevitable fatigue that has at least temporarily quieted the ardor of the demonstrators. The most influential bourgeois circles, those who are most represented among military leaders, have judged this scenario too risky, just as it was by American imperialism from its perspective.
The Egyptian army was rapidly mobilized to control the crowds, protect buildings, and essential services and goods, while letting the police do the dirty work of repression. Completely absent from the first major events, the Muslim Brotherhood, the only significant opposition force that the government has allowed to develop, has hopped on to the moving train: its role will be irreplaceable tomorrow to maintain bourgeois order. Today, military leaders, after announcing the dissolution of parliament and suspending the constitution, promise a return to civilian rule within six months, by which time they will develop a new constitution.
Whatever form the regime change takes, bourgeois political power remains intact in Egypt; worse, the Army, the mainstay of this power, arises momentarily haloed in the transition. But the Egyptian proletariat will quickly learn if they do not suspect it yet, that it is against them that the successors of Mubarak will mobilize, that they will be battered anew by police and military repression, and to defend their interests they will have to fight on their own, without the petit-bourgeois democrats, whether nationalist or religious. In Tunisia after Ben Ali had been removed, a new government, led by the same Prime Minister, was set up so that nothing essential changes: the police brutally evicted protesters who encamped in Tunis and continues to fire on the crowds ( 2 dead even on February 4), the capitalists continue to operate, while politicians are preparing for a future electoral farce, the hoped-for coronation of the restoration and strengthening of the bourgeois order.
There will inevitably be the same thing in Egypt. Already the Supreme Military Council appears to prohibit any meeting of labor organizations or unions, and in fact prohibiting strikes, and it will call for the resumption of work. The coming period will be one of workers’ struggles and in addition to their determination, the Egyptian proletariat will need solidarity with their class brothers in other countries.
Shaken by an unprecedented economic crisis, the capitalist world order little-by-little begins to reveal fissures everywhere. The future heralds the return of the proletarian struggle, not only in the so-called “periphery ”but also in the richest “central ”capitalist countries where the consequences of the crisis have so far been largely amortized.
This will not happen in a day and will require the workers of all countries to expend a lot of energy and courage to resist repression just as their Egyptian and Tunisian fellow workers, to foil the false alternatives presented by the lackeys of the capitalist order; it will require much effort to retrace the road of the class struggle and to constitute the indispensable leadership organ of the international revolutionary proletarian struggle, the world communist party, but if these efforts succeed, they will lead to the reappearance of the spectre of communism. It will then be possible to shout out again:
The bourgeois of all countries tremble at the idea of a Communist revolution!
The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
February 13, 2011
International Communist Party