'You Go - We Stay' fits the bill everywhere
The Egyptian revolution continues its unfinished business. Before but especially since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, a situation of dual power prevails in a country where eight million people – a tenth of the whole population – took part in the mass uprising that broke the back of the dictatorship.
The sweeping out of not only the despised Mubarak, but his entire regime, including the five million in the security apparatus and the military top brass, is in progress, but is still to be completed.
The military has announced that it is dissolving parliament which was stuffed full of Mubarak’s cronies and suspending a constitution that banned political activity, thus conceding some of the principal demands put forward by those who occupied Tahrir Square in Cairo.
But groups such as, amongst others, the Coalition of the Youths of Egypt’s Revolution, the Revolutionary Youth Council and Revolutionary Command Council are insisting on further changes. They remain wary about the army – which propped up Mubarak – being in charge until promised elections are to be held in six months’ time.
Leading activist Khaled Abdelkader Ouda, while welcoming the army’s initial steps, said a council of trustees would be announced on Friday, the date when organisers want millions on the street to celebrate Mubarak’s removal. The council is being set up to guard "the people's revolution".
In the 48 hours run-up to Mubarak’s ousting, organised workers began to move and go on strike around the country. Transport workers in Cairo walked out on Thursday and some 24,000 textile workers struck in the town of Mahalla al-Kubra. Over the weekend, workers at the National Bank of Egypt struck, demanding the resignation of the bank's directors and restructuring of the wages.
Other groups taking action include oil workers, public transport workers and environment ministry civil servants. But while the mass movement is flexing its muscles, the army is reportedly preparing to ban strikes and other actions in a challenge to the popular will.
Egyptians were first inspired by the success of their fellow north Africans in Tunisia, who saw off President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. Like the Tunisian masses, they were motivated first by economic demands – an end to unemployment and poverty. This then turned into a political struggle – led and coordinated by young people making full use of the internet and social networking to defy and bypass state media censorship.
The focus is presently on a political revolution: the departure of the regime, its cronies and state apparatus. People want the dissolution of parliament to be followed by a new constitution and untainted forms of representation and democracy for all sections and political organisations in Egyptian society.
But the economic demands of the Egyptian revolution must still be formulated and achieved. They include the right to employment, good working conditions, a living wage and free trade unions. Attaining these means taking on those who own and control the banks, major industries and installations, such as the Suez canal. Elections to a new Parliament alone cannot fulfil these aspirations.
The calm determination of the Egyptian masses over the past 18 days, their courage in the face of state terror, their inventive and witty slogans such as “Day of Departure”, “No You Can’t”, “You Go - We Stay”, their insistence on remaining in Tahrir Square, has demonstrated unequivocally that when masses of people act together they become an unstoppable force.
So far the movement, which has been characterised by a skilful combination of face-to-face communication together with social media (sometimes used for deliberate deception), secrecy and strategic maneuvering, has succeeded in outwitting the security apparatus.
The outcome of the Egyptian revolution now depends on the development of a leadership that can unite the networks of young people in the cities together with industrial workers for the purpose of a social revolution.
The demands of the movement must be broadened and deepened to articulate the economic and social needs of the Egyptian masses. This means liberating Egypt’s resources from the capitalist classes, one third of which are in the hands of the military.
The revolutionary and community councils and militant workers must appeal to the army rank-and-file, who have until now remained largely neutral, to join the revolution and remove Mubarak’s generals. These organisations can become the basis of a new democratic state to replace the existing, corrupt and big business state.
In this way Egypt can show the way, not only to the hundreds of thousands already stirring on the streets of Algeria, Yemen and Jordan, but to workers throughout the world who are fighting the impact of the world economic recession. 'You Go - We Stay' should be our common refrain.
A World to Win secretary
14 February 2011