Monday, February 14, 2011

Egypt: The Ancien Regime Tries To Hoodwink the Working Class

Events since the fall of Hosni Mubarak have shown that the Egyptian revolution is only in its initial stages. With its series of communiqués issued over the weekend, the Egyptian military has made clear its response to the revolutionary struggles. Its aim is to divert and suppress the mass movement, while ensuring a tactical transfer of power to maintain the old regime in all but name.

The Egyptian army is highlighting its elimination of various legal fictions of the Mubarak regime— the rubber-stamp parliament and the dictator’s constitution. Far from leading a “democratic transition,” 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.

Deeply tied to Egypt’s business community, the officer corps is hostile to the wave of strikes that is shaking Egypt, and workers’ demands for improved wages and social conditions. While it does not yet feel strong enough to do so, the army is signaling its intention to move against strikers. In a statement denouncing “chaos and disorder,” the Higher Military Council said it would ban meetings by labor unions or professional syndicates, effectively making strikes illegal.

In the six months, and perhaps longer, the army plans to hold elections on the basis of a constitution drafted exclusively by itself, and without dissolving Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP). That is, it hopes to use the six-month period to wind down the protests and give a pseudo-democratic cover to a regime no less responsive to the demands of the population than the one controlled by the hated Mubarak.

This basic political fact is summed up in the person of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — now officially the ruler of Egypt — as depicted in cables by US Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone published by WikiLeaks.

Describing Tantawi in March 2008 as committed to the 1979 treaty with Israel and firmly “opposed [to] both economic and political reforms,” Ricciardone summed up Tantawi’s politics thus: “He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time.”

The claim that this corresponds to protestors’ demands is a repugnant lie. The millions of people now participating in strikes and protests — and the thousands who were killed or tortured — were not struggling to preserve the old regime.

Egypt’s official “opposition” is nonetheless signaling its support for the army. After stressing the need for “law and order” Friday, Mohammed ElBaradei declared yesterday: “We trust the army and call upon people to give them the opportunity to implement what they promised.”

Mohamed el-Katatni, a leading official of the Muslim Brotherhood, said: “The main goal of the revolution has been achieved.”

These statements clearly demonstrate that no constituency for genuine democracy exists in the Egyptian capitalist class, or its backers in Washington, or in the capitals of the other imperialist powers. The basic demands of the workers and oppressed masses — for better wages and living conditions, for social equality, and for an end to imperialist domination — fill all sections of the political establishment with dread. Faced with a mass upsurge of the working class, threatening their basic class interests, the pro-capitalist “opposition” has reacted by backing the dictatorship.

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