Egypt rocks the world
Millions in streets try to oust U.S.-backed regime
Published Feb 2, 2011 3:41 PM
Feb. 1 — The outpouring of Egyptians on Tuesday, Feb. 1, is one of the
greatest manifestations of mass protest in history. More than 1 million people
overflowed Tahrir Square in Cairo; hundreds of thousands came out in
Alexandria, Suez, Mansoura and other cities throughout the country. It is truly
world-historic in proportion. Nothing will be the same after this.
All classes, all but those strata irreversibly tied to the old regime, have
united behind a national democratic revolution to topple Hosni Mubarak’s
30-year dictatorship. They have risen on a scale and with the power of a social
These demonstrations took place even though the regime shut down trains and
other mass transportation and blocked the Internet. Many people walked miles to
reach the demonstrations.
Direct reports to Workers World from Tahrir Square are that the slogans are
anti-imperialist, anti-U.S., very anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian, against the
Egyptian business class, against the entire regime and calling for a new
“pro-people” constitution. There is no turning back.
The protests have risen and spread within the extraordinarily short time of
eight days. And, most importantly, the movement is still on the rise. The mass
upsurge has leapt over the heads of everyone — the Mubarak regime, its
imperialist backers and the political opposition in Egypt. All forces are
rushing to catch up to developments. But with each recalibration by the Obama
administration or the Mubarak regime, or those who call themselves “the
opposition” in Egypt, the masses take another leap forward, leaving
At this writing Egyptian television is showing the bizarre scene of Mubarak
sitting in his office, discussing measures to be taken with his newly appointed
cabinet, while more than 2 million people just blocks away are calling for an
end to the entire regime. It is like watching the ghost of someone who has died
— but thinks he is still alive.
‘Martyrdom or freedom’
The corporate television networks covering the demonstrations describe the mood
as celebratory. Yet Al Jazeera cited “martyrdom or freedom” as a
widely popular slogan. Effigies of Mubarak hang from poles. The crowd demands
his arrest and that the entire regime be booted out.
The day Mubarak appointed his crony Omar Suleiman, the hated head of
intelligence and a former general, as his vice president, the people raised the
slogan: “Oh Mubarak, oh Suleiman, we have heard that before. Neither
Mubarak nor Suleiman — both are stooges of the Americans.” (New
York Times, Jan. 30)
At the moment this great uprising lacks a central leadership. But this is
inevitable under the circumstances. The Mubarak regime’s ruthless
repression of the left and all progressive forces has weakened the movement.
Furthermore, the meteoric rise in the demonstrations, from tens of thousands to
millions within a week, would leave even the most developed revolutionary party
running to catch up. There is still much time for the Egyptian people to
develop the leadership they need.
‘Hug a soldier’
The masses have adopted a classical revolutionary strategy of fraternization
towards the rank-and-file soldiers. The movement calls it “hug a
soldier.” Numerous shots were shown on television early on of soldiers
posing with demonstrators; troops riding in tanks waving Egyptian flags; one
officer declaring, “We will not fire on you.”
A military spokesperson the night before the “million person march”
told the masses, “We will not fire on the people.” Actually, after
six days of fraternization, the high command had no idea of whether the troops
would, in fact, fire on the people. The order to fire could cause a huge split
among the troops and drive sections of the ranks actively over to the side of
the people and into combat against the police and the regime.
Former Egypt analyst for the CIA, Bruce Riedel, gave a blunt assessment:
“They could shoot the crowd, they win tomorrow, and then there will be a
revolt that will sweep them away.” (New York Times, Jan. 30)
Two notes of caution regarding the military’s pledge not to shoot: This
pledge was made in the face of an anticipated demonstration of a million or
more people; also this pledge was made in the context of the masses acting
peacefully. There is no telling what the military high command, who are
complete servants of imperialism and reaction, would do should the masses
become more aggressive in their attempts to oust an intransigent
The state and the revolution
Either way, the question of the military and the state in the present struggle
is contradictory. In every revolutionary struggle the question of the state
becomes paramount. The Egyptian state is first and foremost the instrument for
the suppression of the working class and the peasants. In Egypt the police have
traditionally carried out this repressive role.
But with the police off the streets for the moment, the army is the weapon of
the state with its face to the demonstrations. As the situation stands, then,
the state exists but the high command is constrained from using it to suppress
the demonstrations. Yet as long as the troops follow the orders of the high
command, the army is the instrument that prevents the people from sweeping away
the regime and establishing new organs of popular government.
Washington’s illusory ‘orderly
The U.S. imperialists in Washington have been trying to find some
“orderly transition” that will allow the Pentagon and Wall Street
to maintain their grip on Egypt, while placating the masses at the same
But the uprising left Washington without any control over the situation and
without an effective plan to regain control. The U.S. has contemplated dealing
with Mohamed ElBaradei and various small liberal parties of the opposition.
They would like them to negotiate with the military for a transition that would
set up elections but leave the fundamental policies in place.
But in face of the titanic uprising of the Egyptian masses, it will be an
almost impossible task for the U.S. to maintain its domination of the Egyptian
government and its policies, including the peace treaty with Israel, the
blockade of Gaza, the use of the Egyptian foreign office to frustrate the
Palestinian national movement, and using Egypt as a base for the Pentagon in
The anger at the old regime is reminiscent of the people’s anger at the
French monarchy in 1789, the Czar in 1917 and the Shah in 1979. The old order,
the order carefully armed and financed by U.S. imperialism, will eventually be
swept away by the Egyptian masses. No “orderly transition” can
hold. Things can never be the same. For the Egyptian people, the road to
liberation is a complete break with imperialism. This glorious, world-historic
uprising is an enormous first leap along that road.
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