Egypt erupts over Morsi power grab

Mass protests erupted across Egypt following President Mohamed Morsi’s Nov. 22 announcement of a series of decrees that would further consolidate his administration’s power over areas of law, the judiciary and the constitution. On Nov. 26, he met with leaders of the Supreme Judiciary Council in Cairo in an attempt to calm the atmosphere on the eve of scheduled demonstrations both for and against his ruling.

But the Muslim Brotherhood announced it was calling off its planned demonstration in support of Morsi in order to ease tensions. At the same time, a spokesperson for the president tried to soften the impact of his earlier ­announcement.

As Workers World explained in an editorial last June 20, three main forces are contending for power in Egypt following the February 2011 overturn of President Hosni Mubarak. The best organized are (1) the remaining pro-Mubarak forces who are concentrated in the army, the police and the judiciary and (2) the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, which Morsi represents and which was in the opposition during the Mubarak years.

Still out of any form of power are (3) the main mass forces behind the revolution: the workers who struck, the unemployed and disillusioned youth who mobilized using the Internet, some Muslim Brotherhood rank and file who provided defense for the demonstration in Tahrir — in short, the Egyptian masses.

The secular, pro-socialist and anti-imperialist organizations that represent the workers’ needs do not have enough organizational strength to rule on their behalf at this moment. The corporate media instead focus on bourgeois democratic political leaders like Mohamed el-Baradei, who the imperialists can work with.

Both the reactionary state forces on one side and the secular democratic and pro-socialist forces on the other — from opposite perspectives — oppose a Muslim Brotherhood takeover.

Jurists, most of them holdovers from Mubarak’s reign, have threatened an indefinite strike over the new measures. Morsi claimed that he acted to expedite the charging and prosecution of those responsible for killing activists during the uprising of early 2011 that led to Mubarak’s ouster. This puts a popular face on his maneuver.

But the mass movement didn’t accept this explanation. After widespread protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and the Nile delta, Morsi announced on Nov. 25 that the decrees would be temporary.

National protests condemn
presidential actions

Clashes had occurred earlier in commemoration of anti-military demonstrations one year ago that resulted in the massacre of civilians. Youth fought police in several areas of Cairo for several days leading up to Morsi’s announcement of the new decrees.

Some 10,000 people marched through Cairo’s Tahrir Square with the body of the latest youthful martyr to the revolution, Gaber Salah, 16, who died of head injuries sustained during clashes with police in earlier protests. Images of Salah began appearing on Tahrir’s walls with the words: “Your blood will spark a new revolution.” (AP, Nov. 26) Salah was a member of the April 6 movement, a key organization in the uprising that ousted Mubarak.

A Muslim Brotherhood youth was reportedly killed on Nov. 25 when a group of anti-Morsi protesters tried to storm the offices of his Freedom and Justice Party. (Ahram Online, Nov. 25) The Minister of Health said that 444 people were wounded between Nov. 22 and 26.

Secular and Christian forces have withdrawn from the 100-seat panel charged with drafting a national charter.

International implications

Since the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978, Egypt has been the main ally of U.S. imperialism and the state of Israel. The Egyptian masses have gained nothing from the accord, nor from the billions in aid supplied by the U.S. since the 1970s. When the uprising against the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime occurred in early 2011, it sent shockwaves through ruling circles, intelligence agencies and the Pentagon.

Next to Israel, Egypt is the largest recipient of direct U.S. military aid. Its army has been fully integrated into the Pentagon and CIA strategy for North Africa and Western Asia. Since Morsi took office, the U.S. and its allies have sought to undermine the popular aspirations of the revolution.

Military ties between Egypt and the U.S. as well as Israel have continued. The Morsi administration has sought to reestablish the supply of natural gas to Israel in the Sinai. The corporate media praised Egypt for its role in mediating the latest conflict between Tel Aviv and Hamas in Gaza. This is a role that Egypt had played under the Mubarak regime.

The worsening economic situation in Egypt, coupled with the aggressive policies of the Israeli government, will serve to keep the masses in a heightened state of mobilization and political awareness. A possible outcome might be a new coalition of nationalist, left and religious forces who could take Egypt’s revolution to a higher level. n

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