Workers across the world have been avidly watching the revolutionary wave of defiance that began in Tunisia and went on to rapidly envelop Egypt. How inspiring to see millions of Egyptian people pouring onto the streets in a magnificent show of desire to get rid of the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak!
This revolution, in the most populated Arab country, has taken the imperialist powers of the world completely by surprise. Just two weeks ago their leaders were still staunch supporters of the authoritarian Mubarak; now they are struggling to comprehend what has happened and feel forced to pay lip-service to a ‘transition’ to a less repressive government.
However, socialists in the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), have long drawn attention to the huge anger building up in Egypt against high food prices, unemployment, corruption, brutal repression and lack of democratic rights. Last July for example, a CWI website article following the murder of a young man by plain-clothes police, said: “After 29 years of ‘emergency laws’, allowing the security forces to do as they please in Egypt, anger is starting to boil over… the presidency of 82-year old Hosni Mubarak is finding it harder to stem the growing anger and frustration of workers and the poor.. fear of the regime is starting to lift.”
The Egyptian ruling elite is split over what to do and the strong will of the Egyptian people to bring about change is being amply demonstrated. The crucial questions now are: How can that change be achieved? And how can Egyptian workers build a democratic society that is free of repression and poverty?
At the time of writing this leaflet, Mubarak is still hanging on as president and has been unleashing the forces of counter revolution in the form of paid thugs and plain-clothes police who are stoning, shooting and generally besieging the crowds of protesters. An estimated 300 people have been killed and thousands injured.
The army chiefs, fearful of provoking an even greater protest movement, also fearful of where the loyalty of their soldiers will lie in confrontations and unsure of which side will win, decided to largely stand aside and play the role of arbiters. But the army tops are from the ruling layer in society and are waiting to see how best they can support the interests of that privileged layer.
The army rank and file on the other hand are mainly working class conscripts, the majority of whom can be won to the side of the mass movement if the movement adopts a programme aimed at winning them. Such a programme would include the right for soldiers to form democratically run committees, to join trade unions, to have a living wage and to elect the army officers.
As in Tunisia, ordinary people in Egypt have initiated local committees in many areas to protect their homes and streets. But meanwhile, the wealthy politicians and business leaders in Mubarak’s coterie are trying to put together an ‘alternative’ government, drawing in some of the leaders of the small pro-capitalist opposition parties if necessary to better hide their control.
Omar Suleiman, promoted by Mubarak from being Head of Internal Security to become a newly created vice-president charged with the task of saving the regime, has a record of brutal oppression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other oppositionists.
A root and branch removal of all the leaders and apparatus of the Mubarak regime is essential. But no confidence can be placed in any of the opposition pro-capitalist politicians either. None of the small pro-capitalist parties have mass support and none will challenge the fundamental cause of the daily struggle for basic necessities of workers and youth - the capitalist system.
Instead, the setting up of elected committees in every workplace, school, college and community is urgently needed, linked together on a local, regional and national level. Such committees could immediately start to organise the distribution of essential foods, medicines etc. Together with this, an independent working class party needs to be rapidly built that can democratically discuss and propose a strategy for the victory of the mass movement, including a plan of general strike action.
The spectre of a right-wing Islamist government coming to power has been raised by many scaremongering capitalist politicians internationally, as the largest organised opposition movement in Egypt has been the Muslim Brotherhood. But while the Brotherhood and the mosques have been a route for people to express opposition to the regime for many years, that regime’s days are now numbered and most Egyptian workers are making it clear that their goal is a secular, democratic state.
Democratic workplace and neighbourhood committees at city, regional and national level would lay the basis for a government of workers and the poor. That government could immediately set in motion a socialist programme of nationalisation of all the big corporations and banks, to be run under democratic workers' control, providing the planning and resources for job creation and decent living standards for everyone in Egypt.
This would inspire workers across the Middle East to quickly do likewise – to throw off their own dictators and remove the nightmare of capitalism from the entire region.
We call for:
- The formation of democratically elected committees of mass struggle and defence against sectarianism and state repression
- Mass workers' action, including a general strike, to overthrow Mubarak and the whole rotten, brutal regime
- Full democratic rights immediately, including the rights to assemble, strike and organise democratic independent trade unions
- No trust in any new 'national unity' regime based on the interests of the ruling class and imperialism
- Immediate and free elections to a revolutionary democratic constituent assembly. For a majority workers' and rural workers' government
- A living minimum wage, guaranteed jobs and a massive programme of house building, education and health care
- Nationalisation of Egypt's big corporations, the banks and large estates and their democratic planning to meet the needs of the masses, not an elite
- End the Egyptian blockade of Gaza. For self-determination for the Palestinians and for workers' unity and mass action to overthrow dictators across the region
- A socialist Egypt and a socialist confederation of the region, on an equal and voluntary basis