The Egyptian popular uprising
A Public Statement from the Organization for Democratic Action – Da'am
The great popular uprising in Egypt has shaken the region’s dictatorships and threatens their position. These regimes fear the people who demand what was achieved in Europe two centuries ago: democracy. Since January 25, the eyes of the entire world have been fixed on Cairo’s Tahrir Square where Egyptians are calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.
The Egyptian president has tried to save his skin and prevent a repetition of the Tunisian fiasco, where the corrupt dictator fled. At first, security forces and the police were sent to forcibly suppress the young revolutionaries. When this failed, and the protests only gained in strength, the regime encouraged anarchy while releasing thousands of criminal prisoners whose role was to create chaos, frighten the residents of the capital, and usher them back to their homes. When the people organized themselves into popular defense committees and the released prisoners had been rearrested, the regime hired the services of gangs and thugs who tried to take over the square on February 2.
Mubarak then played a new card and nominated Omar Suleiman to the position of vice-president. Suleiman, head of military intelligence, was given extensive authority to manage the country instead of the hated president. In addition, Ahmed Nazif’s cabinet was dismissed and a new government was appointed, headed by Ahmed Shafik.
The two new leaders, Suleiman and Shafik, announced they would accept all the demands of the young demonstrators in Tahrir Square and promised to carry out democratic reforms – but only on condition that they would accept Mubarak’s continued leadership until the elections scheduled for September 2011. Accepting this proposal would have emptied the uprising of any significance.
The army, which had stood aside as the thugs tried to conquer the square, changed its tactic when it became clear the thugs were failing in their mission. Towards the end of the same day, February 2, the army announced it would separate those supporting Mubarak from those demonstrating against, thus putting itself in the role of mediator while ensuring it would remain a decisive force in the political equation, no matter what the eventual settlement would be.
The regime led by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party is trying to keep all the cards in its hands: It “recognizes” the justice of the demonstrators’ claims but succeeded in neutralizing the veteran opposition groups, the communist Taggamu party and the Muslim Brotherhood, which responded positively to the regime’s proposal to negotiate. These groups thus turn their backs on the promise they gave to the rebels not to negotiate with Suleiman until Mubarak had gone, and continue to seek status and influence within the framework of the regime.
The US administration is playing a central role in the events unfolding in Egypt, and Suleiman’s actions are coordinated down to the last detail with the White House. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are vainly trying to show they support of the young revolutionaries in Tahrir Square. However, they are actually strengthening the dictatorial regime in an attempt to save it by carrying out a few constitutional reforms while creating a kind of coexistence between the regime and the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
The young revolutionaries, then, bear a terrible burden of responsibility. They must choose between granting the official opposition the power to speak in their name and negotiate, or continuing the revolutionary march whose central demand is the removal of Mubarak and the complete transformation of the political and economic regime. They must put the army, the political forces and the regime to the test – as well as the US and the entire world: Are you in favor of democracy, and therefore support the removal of Mubarak, symbol of corruption and dictatorship, or do you support the continuation of the oppressive regime and resign yourself to the situation in which Suleiman shields Mubarak in order to perpetuate the president’s rule?
The young revolutionaries are holding up a vision of economic and social justice in keeping with the demands of the Egyptian workers for freedom of association and a life of honor. The working class is the natural ally of the rebels – it was the workers who pushed the uprising forward during extensive strikes in the textile factories of el-Mahalla el-Kubra in 2008. It was the workers who challenged the official unions recognized by the regime and began forming democratic unions.
The neo-liberal policies applied in Egypt since the 1990s led to social crisis and enabled those close to the regime to make enormous profits at the expense of the nation’s future. The democratic uprising will not be complete unless it is accompanied by a social and economic program that meets the workers’ demands. The change of regime is not merely the replacement of the people at the top of the pyramid, but a complete transformation of the economic and social foundations which led Egypt to the current crisis.
Israel’s government fears the fall of Mubarak and democratic change in Egypt. For years the Israeli establishment has relied on an alliance with Mubarak’s oppressive regime, and now, as the Egyptian people rise up, Israel is trying to terrify its citizens into believing that the only alternative to Mubarak is the Muslim Brotherhood.
For us, as a Jewish-Arab workers’ party in Israel, we have no doubt about where we stand: we fully support the heroic struggle of the workers and young people in Egypt. It is time the citizens of Israel compel their leaders to adopt a policy of peace and reconciliation with the Arab world and Palestinian nation, to put an end to the occupation and settlement, and to recognize the rights of Arab nations to democracy and freedom.
We are certain that Egypt, and the rest of the Arab states, will not go back to the way things were before January 25, 2011. The winds of democracy are blowing. The global capitalist regime which has strengthened the dictatorships in this region for decades has reached its final historical stage. There is no democracy without social justice. And there is no force in the world that can suppress those who challenge the fear of oppression.