The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 77/No. 28      July 22, 2013

(front page)
Millions celebrate ouster
of Islamist gov’t in Egypt
Workers defend space to organize, fight
AP/Amr Nabil
July 5 mobilization in Cairo’s Tahrir Square marks fall of Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi. Zinab al-Saghier, front, lost eye during recent clash with Morsi supporters.

Millions of people across Egypt are celebrating the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government, having succeeded in defending the political space opened by the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship less than two and a half years ago.

In the midst of massive protests, the military high command ousted Morsi on July 3, arresting him and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and shutting down much of the group’s media. They suspended the new Islamist constitution — pushed through by the Morsi government at the end of last year — that had become a source of contention with both workers and competing factions of the capitalist class.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest capitalist party in the country, organized large actions to defend Morsi’s government. Clashes took place between Morsi supporters and opponents in Cairo, Alexandria and other parts of the country. Residents of Cairo’s Manial neighborhood told the Arab news service Al Arabiya that they saw Brotherhood supporters armed with automatic weapons, machetes and sticks.

When military helicopters flew over Tahrir Square June 30 dropping Egyptian flags, demonstrators cheered the army’s signal they would back the protests against attempts by the Brotherhood to drown them in blood. “We don’t have the weapons the Brotherhood has,” Karam Youssef, owner of a small bookshop in a Cairo suburb, told the Militant by phone July 7. “We couldn’t defeat them on our own. It would have been chaos.

“There were people from all aspects of society at Tahrir Square — middle-class, working-class, poor people and lots of women,” said Youssef. “Millions of people were in the streets all over the country, more even than during the protests against Mubarak.”

The protests, initiated by Tamarod (Rebel), a group of young people who had collected 22 million signatures demanding Morsi’s resignation, were fueled by the deteriorating Egyptian economy, government attempts to put a lid on growing labor struggles, opposition to the Brotherhood’s attempt to impose their sectarian vision of Sunni Islam on political and social life and anger over violent attacks by Brotherhood thugs.

In the last few weeks before Morsi was ousted, a nationwide fuel shortage caused long waits at gas stations and rolling electricity blackouts affected millions, especially in working-class neighborhoods.

Workers take advantage of space

Working people have been able to take advantage of the space opened up by Mubarak’s overthrow and the ensuing conflicts among competing capitalist factions to begin organizing themselves to defend their interests. The power struggle among the propertied rulers — represented by the army on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other — only sharpened, while labor battles, political discussions and efforts to organize among the toilers grew.

Protest actions, from sit-ins to strikes and demonstrations, mushroomed from just under 200 a month during Mubarak’s last year to more than 1,000 a month recently. The rulers’ hopes, including among the military high command, that a Brotherhood-led government would have better success than they had in putting an end to these struggles, were dashed.

“Workers still face the same old problems,” Mohamad Ahmad Salem, a spokesperson of the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress, said by phone from Mahalla, before Morsi’s ouster. “The police are still raiding meetings of workers trying to organize unions and the number of detained workers has increased.”

“The number of workers in unions has at least doubled since Mubarak was overthrown,” Fatma Ramadan, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, told the Militant July 1 from Cairo.

Last December Morsi forced through a new constitution that restricted democratic rights, union organization and freedom of worship. It passed with the participation of less than one-third of eligible voters.

“We didn’t get rid of a military regime to replace it with a fascist theocracy that enforces extremist regulations in the name of religion,” 12-year-old Ali Ahmed told Egypt’s El Wady newspaper at a protest last October.

Capitalist factions jockey for power

After Morsi was arrested and his government dispersed, the military high command appointed Adly Mansour, head of the High Constitutional Court, as interim president. At first the National Salvation Front reported that Mohamed ElBaradei, former director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, would be named prime minister. But the Nour party, a Salafist Islamic group that broke with Morsi in the midst of the mass protests, objected.

On July 8, while various factions were still vying for their share of power, more than 50 supporters of the Brotherhood demanding Morsi’s return were killed when soldiers and police opened fire on a sit-in in front of the Republican Guard headquarters, where they believe Morsi is being held.

According to the Financial Times, the military has set in motion corruption investigations of Muslim Brotherhood-owned businesses, including those of Khairat al-Shataer, a real estate and textile mogul.

The Egyptian military is itself the largest single employer in the country, owning a wide range of businesses, real estate and factories.

On July 9 Mansour appointed former Finance Minister Hazem El-Beblawi prime minister and ElBaradei as vice president for foreign relations. Mansour issued a “road map” for writing a new constitution and holding parliamentary and presidential elections over the next five to six months.

White House failed to broker deal

For decades Washington has backed the military and a succession of dictatorial regimes in Egypt to promote capitalist stability in the region. After Mubarak’s fall, the Barack Obama administration continued to send some $1.3 billion a year in aid to the army, while seeking collaborative relations with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Obama has released one statement since Morsi’s overthrow, calling on the Egyptian military “to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government” and to “avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters.” Many in Egypt view Obama as a supporter of the Brotherhood regime, while Brotherhood supporters feel betrayed. Widespread distrust or hatred for Washington appears to have only increased on all sides.

According to the New York Times, the White House tried to broker a deal that would have allowed Morsi to remain president by bringing bourgeois opposition parties into the government. Morsi refused.

Meanwhile, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait announced plans July 9 to provide a total of $12 billion to the Egyptian government in hopes of stabilizing and shoring up whatever regime comes together — with the military as the perpetual main pillar of bourgeois rule.  
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