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Vol. 75/No. 45      December 12, 2011

Eyes on working class in Egypt

The Militant salutes the hundreds of thousands protesting in Egypt’s Tahrir Square and across the country against military rule and demanding political rights.

Since mass mobilizations and a wave of workers’ strikes toppled the U.S.-backed Mubarak dictatorship in February, space has opened up for the working class—the revolutionary class—to organize, be active in politics and establish links with other workers worldwide. Working people have begun to use this space to advance their interests against those of the bosses and their government and have gained valuable experience and confidence in struggle. This is the most important gain.

The Egyptian government remains firmly in the hands of the military, the institution from which Mubarak emerged. It has fought to maintain its dominant place in the Egyptian capitalist government and impede democratic gains. Strikes that threaten “the national economy” remain outlawed. The recent mobilizations erupted after the military rulers moved to ensure any new constitution does not dilute their economic and political power—the very concern that drove commanders to back the overthrow of Mubarak.

The military’s political role in Egypt is an integral part of capitalist rule there. It cannot be fundamentally changed short of revolutionary struggle any more than can the rule of kings and princes in much of the Middle East.

As a result of an opening crack in bourgeois politics following the Mubarak overthrow, Islamist parties—the most organized bourgeois political force outside the military—are pressing for greater influence. Some see the Islamists as a lesser evil compared to the military, for others the Islamists represent a greater evil and threat to the popular struggle for rights. As the struggle in Egypt continues, it will be even clearer that the Islamists, the liberals and the military are all obstacles to the struggle of workers and farmers.

The example and lessons of the 1979 Iranian revolution remain very important. The working class played the decisive role in that deep-going, modern, popular social revolution in city and countryside. It opened space for workers and landless peasants, for women, for oppressed nationalities, for youth, and for the emergence of a communist party, based in the unions and workers’ councils.

It took a political counterrevolution, led by religious figures and institutions, to stifle the revolutionary thrust unleashed by the overthrow of the Shah and stabilize capitalist rule in the new form of a Bonapartist theocracy. Still, today, the power and depth of the Iranian revolution is shown in the fact that the clerical-dominated regime has not been able to suffocate political discussion and activity.

It’s the working-class battles on a larger and deeper scale that lie ahead in Egypt and the region that will ultimately pose the necessity and possibility for the replacement of the rule of the capitalists and their army with that of the toilers of town and country. For the possibility of victory, workers need time and space to forge their own organizations and political party.
Related articles:
Egypt protests condemn continued military rule
Workers, youth grapple with road forward  
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