#Jan25 The workers, middle class, military junta and the permanent revolution

12 February 2011 | 14:14

نصف ثورة يساوي هلاك أمة

Since yesterday, and actually earlier, middle class activists have been urging Egyptians to suspend the protests and return to work, in the name of patriotism, singing some of the most ridiculous lullabies about “let’s build new Egypt,” “Let’s work harder than even before,” etc… In case you didn’t know, actually Egyptians are among the hardest working people in the globe already..

Those activists want us to trust Mubarak’s generals with the transition to democracy–the same junta that has provided the backbone of his dictatorship over the past 30 years. And while I believe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who receive $1.3 billion annually from the US, will eventually engineer the transition to a “civilian” government, I have no doubt it will be a government that will guarantee the continuation of a system that will never touch the army’s privileges, keep the armed forces as the institution that will have the final say in politics (like for example Turkey), guarantee Egypt will continue to follow the US foreign policy whether it’s the undesired peace with Apartheid State of Israel, safe passage for the US navy in the Suez Canal, the continuation of the Gaza siege and exports of natural gas to Israel at subsidized rates. The “civilian” government is not about cabinet members who do not wear military uniforms. A civilian government means a government that fully represents the Egyptian people’s demands and desires without any intervention from the brass. And I see this hard to be accomplished or allowed by the junta.

The military has been the ruling institution in this country since 1952. Its leaders are part of the establishment. And while the young officers and soldiers are our allies, we cannot for one second lend our trust and confidence to the generals. Moreover, those army leaders need to be investigated. I want to know more about their involvement in the business sector.

All classes in Egypt took part in the uprising. In Tahrir Square you found sons and daughters of the Egyptian elite, together with the workers, middle class citizens, and the urban poor. Mubarak has managed to alienate all social classes in society including wide section of the bourgeoisie. But remember that it’s only when the mass strikes started three days ago that’s when the regime started crumbling and the army had to force Mubarak to resign because the system was about to collapse.

Some have been surprised that the workers started striking. I really don’t know what to say. The workers have been staging the longest and most sustained strike wave in Egypt’s history since 1946, triggered by the Mahalla strike in December 2006. It’s not the workers’ fault that you were not paying attention to their news. Every single day over the past three years there was a strike in some factory whether it’s in Cairo or the provinces. These strikes were not just economic, they were also political in nature.

From day 1 of our uprising, the working class has been taking part in the protests. Who do you think were the protesters in Mahalla, Suez and Kafr el-Dawwar for example? However, the workers were taking part as “demonstrators” and not necessarily as “workers”– meaning, they were not moving independently. The govt had brought the economy to halt, not the protesters by its curfew, shutting down of banks and business. It was a capitalist strike, aiming at terrorizing the Egyptian people. Only when the govt tried to bring the country back to “normal” on Sunday that workers returned to their factories, discussed the current situation, and started to organize en masse, moving as a block.

The strikes waged by the workers this week were both economic and political fused together. In some of the locations the workers did not list the regime’s fall among their demands, but they used the same slogans as those protesting in Tahrir and in many cases, at least those I managed to learn about and I’m sure there are others, the workers put forward a list of political demands in solidarity with the revolution.

These workers are not going home anytime soon. They started strikes because they couldn’t feed their families anymore. They have been emboldened by Mubarak’s overthrowal, and cannot go back to their children and tell them the army has promised to bring them food and their rights in I don’t know how many months. Many of the strikers have already started raising additional demands of establishing free trade unions away from the corrupt, state backed Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions.

Today, I’ve already started receiving news that thousands of Public Transport workers are staging protests in el-Gabal el-Ahmar. The temporary workers at Helwan Steel Mills are also protesting. The Railway technicians continue to bring trains to halt. Thousands of el-Hawamdiya Sugar Factory are protesting and oil workers will start a strike tomorrow over economic demands and also to impeach Minister Sameh Fahmy and halt gas exports to Israel. And more reports are coming from other industrial centers.

At this point, the Tahrir Square occupation is likely to be suspended. But we have to take Tahrir to the factories now. As the revolution proceeds an inevitable class polarization is to happen. We have to be vigilant. We shouldn’t stop here… We hold the keys to the liberation of the entire region, not just Egypt… Onwards with a permanent revolution that will empower the people of this country with direct democracy from below…

37 responses to “#Jan25 The workers, middle class, military junta and the permanent revolution

  1. As someone with ties to the Philippines, I can attest to the nature of a stillborn People Power movement. In the Philippines it pushed a US backed dictator from power, and they got democracy.

    But it is a democracy dominated by ruling class factions who use politics to further their interests. The result is that the vast majority live in extreme poverty, and the middle class mostly emigrates for better opportunities.

  2. Facebook has approx. 1700 employees.

    Twitter has approx. 400 employees.

    The vast majority of US employers use Facebook and Twitter to screen employees.

    The vast majority of US employers block the use of Facebook and Twitter at work.

    Your revolution was not to end the corrupt wealth of Mubharak only to see it “earned” by a Google executive. However intelligent a person he might be.

    All engineering products are 95% history and 5% new development. This is overwhelmingly true of software code. The Google executive deserves a good salary, better than most of us. He doesn’t deserve to earn everything while the rest live in poverty.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. The worst thing that can happen to this immensely huge wave of revolutionary fervor, is for other Arab countries to see that Egypt deposed a despot, but things remain relatively the same. Democracy MUST come from the bottom up, from the workers. What is happening in Argentina is a PRIME example of worker control. Factories were being shut down, workers went in and started the machines again. They ran the workplace with complete democratic rule. Every worker has a vote. Salaries were distributed more evenly. There’s a great documentary on the worker takeovers on YouTube, it’s called The Take. A must see.
    I’m very glad to hear that the workers in Egypt know that the revolution isn’t yet finished. Egypt can push a step ahead of all other “democracies.”

  4. thanks, hossam! so glad that you wrote this. I hope all or most will end up supporting the workers, even if you are all tired. there will only be freedom when everyone is free, there will only be justice when everyone’s basic rights are met. You DO hold the key to liberation of this region, please everyone, keep going! solidarity!

  5. I was born and lived under general Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay.
    Egyptians, please do not give up and keep the revolution permanently.
    Stroessner died already with “dignity” exiled in Brazil, but his regime still is in power.
    I will keep monitoring my current government until we all, also in the US,
    can enjoy justice. With no justice, no peace.

  6. You are absolutely right but I think you are being generous calling them middle class. They are part of the same elite. Their economic interest is in preserving status quo all they will do is make is open up the political system to people can breathe a little. The old farts didn’t know the impact of internet and the old guard has become an anachronism. Unfortunately Wael Ghonim has become the face of the revolution now. Look at where he spent the last days of the uprising in Ziad Aly’s offices. You are telling me that Ziad Aly is on board of Vodaphone because he cares or knows any thing about the common man. I think the fix is in, a the glorious movement of the people is in great danger of being stolen.

  7. Vodafone shut down phone service at the govt’s request to enable a total violation of right to free expression, and he is on the board? Noone should have anything to do with him. That government contract needs to be revised too.

  8. This will be a tactic used by the powers that be. Divide and Conquer. Essential that the various factions stay united. Form a public webcam’ed people’s parliament ASAP. Run in parallel 2 the status quo until YOU become the status quo. Find common ground that inspires the Street and Working Class and make it THEIR policy ASAP. I would recommend that a witch hunt be put on hold
    South African style “Truth and Reconciliation”?

    Just some old thoughts from an Old Anarchist in the UK.
    United the people can never be defeated.
    Oh and best of luck. (You are really going to need it!)

  9. @Yasmine – Go Google Ziad Aly and find out all the companies he is is involved with, also Wael ghonim tweeted today that he asked Naguib Swaris for a special phone number. BTW also google swaris and ziad’s connections. Then tell me there agenda is anything but to remove the aging dinasour so they keep making money under a system that only works for the elite. Now that the dinasour has been pushed out the want their workers to go back to work for them.

  10. Great article. As a Chilean citizen who grew up during the transition from Pinochet to civilian rule, and as someone who works academically on constitutional law and democratic theory, I would like to emphasize something that the article already hints at. Transitions to democracy, as the comparative experience shows, are always a tricky business because there’s no definite and agreed-upon point of arrival. Transitions are already an exercise in political dexterity, where you need to take into account various and often divergent social goals —peace & participation; justice & order; growth & equality— and the perspectives of many social and institutional actors, including international expectations. The first challenge that Egypt will face as a nation is where to go from here and how to get there.

  11. Wael has made several odd statements, imho, the first one in his emotional interview where he claimed some of his captors loved Egypt the way he did but went about it in a different way. (?) Or was that lost in translation? (I don’t speak Arabic).

    Just heard Samer Shehata on ALJ English mention him as potential leader. His name is getting tossed around everywhere.

  12. All my life, whenever I came to Egypt and rode into Cairo from the airport, the poverty would hit me in the stomach and totally deflate me. I want to see no more of that, ever.

  13. im from india, and been keenly watching and supporting the people’s uprising in egypt. yesterday’s victory of the egyptian people enthralled and inspired us all in this part of the world. but one is also worried about this outcome of the military taking over, even if they said its for the transitional period. thats not what the working class and the poor of egypt has fought and sacrificed for. the economic, social policies of the regime needs to be challenged and replaced, not just the one at the head of the regime. otherwise no sooner will one set of elites hand over power to another set of them, and continue with the anti-people, neo-liberal policies, selling out your country and its resources. the free market supporters like el baradei must not be allowed by the masses on the streets to come and take over the regime they fought against and the policies they fought against. thanks to hossam for this article and others by him, it gives us hope! hope the left is able to take an upper hand in the coming days with the mobilization and support of the workers, red salute to all of you!

  14. a great article, and brilliant to see there are people in Egypt fighting to stop the capitalist politicians stealing the fruits of a revolution they only backed reluctantly.

    the whole world is watching, and a whole new generation fighting against the crisis of globalisation will learn profound lessons from your revolution which is only just beginning.

    i really hope the Egyptian working class will establish its independence and bring itself to the head of the revolution.

    http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/mubarak-falls-victory-egyptian-revolution

  15. Forgot to add this:

    ” Top Army officials were almost certainly on his payroll, which might help explain why the Army eased him out in the end–allowing a kind of in-country exile–instead of hounding him out of Egypt or imprisoning him once it was clear the tide had turned against him for good.””

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/How-Hosni-Mubarak-Got-Filthy-usnews-3723955512.html?x=0

    He needs to be arrested. Not hanging in the palace til he goes …

  16. Living in Turkey with some experience about the struggle for democracy I can say that the author is 100% correct with giving an example from Turkey for “keeping the armed forces as the institution that will have the final say in politics ” which results with a hybrid democracy instead of a real one.
    30 years have passed after the military coupe in Turkey, peaceful transition to democracy has been successful and still they are trying to build consent for the tutorship of army trying to take advantage of nationalism and fuel islamophobia and xenophobia

  17. It looks like Mubarak’s thugs have been transformed once again. First from policemen to plain clothes `supporters’ of the regime with molotov cocktails and assorted weaponry and now to rather aggressive street cleaners chanting patriotic slogans as they clear Tahrir Square. In the meantime Mubarak luxuriates in his Sharm El Sheikh palace waiting to make a comeback.

  18. The global economic crisis of 2008-2009 exposed the failure of capitalism, and fueled the present revolts in the Arab world.

    As Michael Moore said in his documentary film “Capitalism: a love story”: it is time to replace Capitalism with Democracy!

    The people of Egypt had a great partial victory with the removal of Mubarak, but it’s only a partial victory. It’s only the “February revolution”, like in Russia in 1917.

    The fight must continue to defeat the capitalist elites and assure the victory of the workers’ democracy. The time is now.

  19. Firstly-Congratulations to the people of Egypt. And a fine article.It seems like the people in the Square were already forging socio-economic structures better than the state was providing – health clinics, kindergardens, refuge collection etc. – i’m guessing most of these followed non-capitalist principles. so why not just expand them throughout society? why not take these principles into the factories? look at some of the examples in areas of Spain during 1936-38. Here’s to a happier life for all!

  20. “Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.”

    Could we not have a finer validation of this truth from The Communist Manifesto, than in Egypt?

  21. THE JOY OF REVOLUTION
    http://www.bopsecrets.org/PS/joyrev3.htm

    Chapter 3: Climaxes
    [Analysis of tactics in radical situations such as present-day Egypt]

    Causes of social breakthroughs
    Postwar upheavals
    Effervescence of radical situations
    Popular self-organization
    The situationists in May 1968
    Workerism is obsolete, but workers’ position remains pivotal
    Wildcats and sitdowns
    Consumer strikes
    What could have happened in May 1968
    Methods of confusion and cooption
    Terrorism reinforces the state
    The ultimate showdown
    Internationalism

  22. I confess I know nothing about socialism, but if it means I don’t have to worry about carrying a designer handbag, driving a luxury car and living in a posh neighborhood, then I’m all for it.

  23. Ah these middle class, I bet they will not hesitate as to even use religion as the overpowering cause of this success, and that people should believe in the power of prayers.

    —-sarda—–

  24. Dear Yasmin,

    I also do not know about socialism but I think it is more important to talk about the essence more than the name(socialism), so the idea I am going to share can be called by any name, if this is not socialism then it is high time for all the socialist/communist or any leftist group to show their product. Well, if it is a good product(system), people will buy it.

    Get a clean sheet of paper and then draw on it as many triangles as you can, any kind of triangle, then get one particular triangle, this triangle could be the community or association you are a member at. Now, we can imagine that the three points or corners of the triangle are the three main provisions of society, the school, the industry, and the market. I say provisions because in this community or associations, they have these principles that all members must try to hold on to or stand up to, like they are the general rules and these principles are:

    The Five Basic principles:

    1) Don’t be a burden!

    2) Be independent!

    3) Strive for equality!

    4) Be practical!

    5) Learn and improve!

    Hence the three main provisions. They are all in the form of cooperative or I call it the Cooperative Triangle. Since there is cooperative ownership, the provisions are controlled by the associations, every member are secured of job and education, and the control of the market makes the prices of all commodities(products from other associations) are kept in check and equal in exchange. Now imagine that all the triangles are like this one and interacting with one another. Utopia? Then look again at the five basic principles and look at the world of the ordinary people, what principles are they holding up to? The five
    basic principles, because these principles are principles that only a human being can hold on to, and the ordinary people are just human being, and the world of the ordinary people is the world of the human being, and it is not Utopia.

    —–sarda—–

  25. Make a big banner that reads,

    “Soldiers, What are you going to do when you run out of bullets?”

    “This is a civilian affair not a military affair, go back to your barracks!”

    “We use the military during war, there is no war!”

    “We gave you that gun not to point against us!”

    —–sarda—–

  26. The strategy of permanent revolution must, I think, mean the workers taking the lead and that the goal must be a revolutionary workers’ state. Yet the Revolutionary Socialists statement of Feb. 1 called on the workers to join the “people,” not for the workers as a class to lead the struggle. Its call “All power to the people!” and your statement “empower the people of this country with direct democracy from below” leave ambiguous whether a popular front or populist regime could be meet the workers’ interests or whether it is necessary to overthrow the capitalist state and build a workers’ state. See this open letter in response to the RS statement for more discussion: http://www.lrp-cofi.org/statements/letter_rse_020911.html. In solidarity with all those in struggle.

  27. Dear Hossam,

    I am writing to you today because I have been a follower of yours on Twitter and found you to be a most informative and insightful voice during one of the key events of our lifetime: Egypt’s Revolution of January 25th. As someone who is so closely involved in the current transition, I wanted to share
    with you a project that we are set to launch over the coming couple of days: Talabatna.com.

    Talabatna.com is a crowdsourcing tool we have developed, which bears the goal of allowing every Egyptian with internet access to remain engaged in the political and social reform process from their home computers. The site has no profit, political or social motives or agendas. It is simply a tool for people to share ideas and allow others to “agree” or “disagree”: thereby allowing the best ideas (based on the votes of the people) to gain the most prominence. In other words, it is a democratic tool that can be used to facilitate the dialogue process.

    We would be delighted if you would be interested in having a look at the site before we make it public, sharing any feedback you may have with us, and/or submitting any ideas you find to be of interest or value. Our site allows anyone with a Facebook account to vote, provided they are located in Egypt.

    Thanks for your consideration,

    Mohamed

  28. The Middle Class

    It is about time that we take notice of these double-faced people. Like right now, they are already at the process of betraying the masses’ hard-earned revolution. The vacillating character of these class is what makes it difficult to identify them but what makes them stand-out is that they do not want fall in the category of the working-class, they see the working-class as a status lower than them, hence, they spread the thought that escaping the working-class category is just something to be proud of, disgusting!

    Let us do away with these middle class by lambasting their words everywhere and every time they speak until it becomes shameful and they are no longer proud of being one.

    —–sarda—–

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