Report from Cairo
Hundreds gather to found Egyptian Socialist Party
Published Jul 4, 2011 9:36 PM
June 18 — The Egyptian Socialist Party was founded here today before a
packed auditorium of more than 400 Egyptians and international guests. What
made such an assembly possible was the enormous mass revolution of last Jan. 25
that removed the U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak and made the name
“Tahrir Square” an inspiration for popular revolt worldwide.
Some of the founding members of the Egyptian
Socialist Party, (L to R) Dr. Salwa Antary, an
economist and former general manager of the
National Bank of Egypt, Saad Taweed, engineer,
Ahmed Bahaa, agricultural engineer and
head of the party.
Composed of Marxists and non-Marxists, the party is centered around a
perspective that capitalism has plundered Egypt and impoverished its people,
and that the only way to develop Egypt and raise the standard of living is
through socialist economic measures.
Speakers affirmed the Arab character of Egypt, their support for a Palestinian
state, the opening of the Rafah border with Gaza, and opposition to Zionism and
The party described the impoverishment of two-thirds of Egypt’s people as
the root cause of the mass Jan. 25 Revolution that deposed Mubarak, who had
ruled Egypt for more than 30 years. The Egyptian Socialist Party sees itself as
a continuation of that revolution because it seeks to address and rectify the
poverty and to fight against repression and for democratic rights. Members
referred to the fertile grounds for socialist ideology in Egypt at this
The new party emphasized that it was part of a “socialist front”
with like-minded left parties that would fight together on common issues and
defend the Jan. 25 Revolution. The other four parties are the Popular
Democratic Alliance — made up of a majority of the former
“loyal-left” Tagammu party — the Democratic Labor Party, the
Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Egyptian Communist Party.
Egyptian women bear the brunt of the economic
downturn. The deteriorating infrastructure
be seen in the rubble-strewn street.
WW photos: Joyce Chediac
The Egyptian Socialist Party sees itself as part of a long history of Egyptian
socialists fighting for the rights of the poor and challenging colonialism and
neocolonialism since the 1920s.
Among the economic measures that the party advocates right now are decreasing
the disparity between urban and rural areas, since 87 percent — seven of
every eight — of Egypt’s poorest people live in rural areas; and
affirming the right of workers and the unemployed to freely form independent,
democratic unions without interference from the state and winning unions with
nothing more than notification of the workers’ intent.
Other immediate demands include guaranteeing the right to work for every
citizen who is capable and desires to work; guaranteeing the right to
sustainable unemployment benefits to each unemployed person; and raising the
minimum wage and pensions to 1500 Egyptian pounds on the condition that the
disparity between the minimum wage and the wage ceiling not exceed 1:15.
Among other economic demands are tying wages to prices to maintain support
related to an increase in commodity prices; canceling temporary hires for
permanent jobs; and gaining popular participation in the oversight of the
markets and the distribution of bread. (For more details, see The Egyptian
Socialist Party Political Perspective at www.tinyurl.com/egyptsocialism
Perspective on Egyptian women, keeping Egypt secular
The party recognized the leadership role that Egyptian women have played in the
trade unions and the role they played in the Jan. 25 Revolution. Speakers
pointed out that economic deterioration and rising prices in Egypt over the
last decade have made women the country’s most vulnerable group, with
little access to education.
Ahmed Bahaa raised a burning issue at the moment for the Egyptian left —
keeping Egypt a secular country. He said the Egyptian Socialist Party opposes a
constitutional amendment declaring Egypt an Islamic country. At the same time,
Bahaa said, the party “perceives Christianity, Islam and Judaism as part
of the Egyptian spirit, and we extend our hand to enlightened religious leaders
who share the same ground as us.” His words were followed by a chant
raised from the audience of “Moslems and Christians are joining
New election rules favor the rich
Bahaa explained that new rules for new parties to run in the upcoming September
elections are meant to “ensure new parties are only for the rich,”
and that they “restrict those who would build a new system in Egypt and
challenge those with money.”
To be on the ballot, new parties must have 5,000 registered members, and then
take out prohibitively expensive ads in the two major Egyptian daily newspapers
listing all 5,000 names.
According to Mamdouh el Habashi, the new party’s immediate plans include
consolidating its line and reaching out to people in other parts of Egypt as
well as to those in Cairo. (Most of the participants at the meeting were from
the Cairo area, but there were also some from the countryside and other
industrial cities.) While the party will not officially be on the ballot, el
Habashi said they plan to run candidates in the upcoming elections in order to
make their program known.
From the Arab world, solidarity statements to the Egyptian Socialist Party were
delivered from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Iraqi
Communist Party. Solidarity speakers from Europe included Johanna Bussemer, a
member of the European Parliament representing Die Linke (the Left Party) in
Germany, and Len Leroy from the French Communist Party.
From the U.S., this reporter delivered a solidarity statement from Workers
World Party and the International Action Center.
Other international guests included representatives from the Spanish Communist
Party, the French Left Party, the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark, and the
Korean Democratic Workers Party (south Korea).
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