From January 25 to February 11, 2011, a revolutionary upsurge of the Egyptian working class toppled a decades-old US-backed dictatorship in the largest Arab country.
In two weeks and three days of heroic struggles around Tahrir Square in Cairo and in other major cities throughout the country, the Egyptian security forces, equipped and trained by the United States, attempted unsuccessfully to put down the mass protests and strikes. At least 846 people were killed and 6,000 injured.
The Obama administration worked behind the scenes to bolster President Hosni Mubarak. Only when it concluded that keeping Mubarak in power was no longer an option did Washington work to organize an “orderly transition” that would maintain the Egyptian capitalist state and uphold US imperialist interests.
On February 1, as Mubarak was seeking to dupe the protesters with talk of “compromise,” WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North wrote that the events in Egypt and Tunisia exploded the “complacent and reactionary scenario” that characterized the pro-capitalist triumphalism that had prevailed in the aftermath of the liquidation of the Soviet Union in 1991, according to which revolutionary struggles were a thing of the past.
Of decisive significance in forcing Mubarak out was the emergence of the working class as a powerful social force. North wrote on February 10, “While the mass assemblies and clashes in Tahrir Square in Cairo have been the focal point of media coverage, the growing wave of working class militancy—in the form of protest demonstrations and strikes—will have a greater impact on the course of events.” However, to be successful, mass struggle had to be guided by a clear political program.
The struggle that is now unfolding in Egypt will be of a protracted character. The responsibility of revolutionary Marxists is to develop among workers, as they pass through colossal political experiences, an understanding of the necessity for an independent struggle for power. The revolutionary Marxists must counsel workers against all illusions that their democratic aspirations can be achieved under the aegis of bourgeois parties. They must expose ruthlessly the false promises of the political representatives of the capitalist class. They must encourage the creation of independent organs of workers’ power which can become, as the political struggle intensifies, the basis for the transfer of power to the working class. They must explain that the realization of the workers’ essential democratic demands is inseparable from the implementation of socialist policies.
Above all, revolutionary Marxists must raise the political horizons of Egyptian workers beyond the borders of their own country. They must explain that the struggles that are now unfolding in Egypt are inextricably linked to an emerging global process of world socialist revolution, and that the victory of the revolution in Egypt requires not a national, but an international strategy. After all, the fight against the Mubarak-Suleiman regime and the Egyptian ruling class is, in the final analysis, a struggle against the entire Arab bourgeoisie, the Zionist regime in Israel and American and European imperialism. In this global struggle, the greatest and indispensable ally of the Egyptian masses is the international working class.
On February 11, the resignation of Mubarak was announced to triumphant crowds. In “The downfall of Hosni Mubarak,” the WSWS Editorial Board pointed to both the historic character of these events and the immense political challenges that remained:
As significant as the resignation of Mubarak is, however, it is only the beginning of this struggle. Mubarak may be gone, but the regime remains, with power in the hands of the officer corps that has been the linchpin of the capitalist dictatorship in Egypt for decades. The masses know they have only begun to settle accounts with the exploiters—the secret police, the venal Egyptian generals, and Mubarak himself.
With the support of the Obama administration, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) unilaterally established a military junta, promising elections in six months. In a statement following Mubarak’s resignation, the WSWS warned:
The army is trying to keep itself in power, while granting none of the basic demands that are driving millions of Egyptians into the streets. The country is now under the rule of a military junta, which is retaining all the emergency powers of the old regime, preserving the police, and attempting to rule through a network of old Mubarak cronies like Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.
As for the Obama administration, having supported Mubarak for as long as possible, it is backing the military regime.
A series of protracted political maneuvers and violent clashes followed the ouster of Mubarak, as the military junta, right-wing bourgeois factions like the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-imperialist figures like Mohammed ElBaradei vied for influence, while the strikes and mass demonstrations that had driven Mubarak from power continually flared up. The WSWS combined on-the-spot reports with analysis of the political issues facing the mass movement.
Capitalism was preserved in Egypt with the complicity of middle-class pseudo-left tendencies, which promoted illusions in the military and sought to prevent an independent political movement of the working class. Tendencies such as Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists (RS), a group with political ties to the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the US and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Britain, played an insidious and reactionary role.
From the outset, the RS promoted illusions in the Egyptian military, constitutional reform, elections, bourgeois candidates such as Mohammed ElBaradei, and bourgeois parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, while opposing popular calls for a “second revolution” against the junta. The resulting confusion provided the Obama administration and the military junta with sufficient breathing space to impose a brutal crackdown in the months following Mubarak’s ouster.
In, “The counterrevolutionary role of the Egyptian pseudo-left,” the WSWS provided a detailed historical, political and sociological analysis of the role of the RS and similar tendencies.
These parties oppose the independent mobilization of the working class against the junta. Politically, they defend the legacy of military rule in Egypt and the Stalinists’ nationalist support for it, even after the working class has risen in revolt against Mubarak and, subsequently, the SCAF. Sociologically, these parties draw their membership from affluent sections of the middle class, a social layer tied financially and politically to Western imperialism that seeks to keep the workers under the control of the state and trade union bureaucracies.
In stark contrast to the middle-class pseudo-left groups that supported the US-backed “transition” in Egypt, the WSWS—and the WSWS alone—called for the political independence of the Egyptian working class and its mobilization to overthrow the Egyptian junta and establish a workers’ government, as part of the fight for the United Socialist States of the Middle East.