Friday, 11 February 2011

Seeing off Mubarak cannot be the end of the tale

After 18 days of unrest across Egypt, Hosi Mubarak has finally stepped down as president. Many people will, rightly, be jubilant at this news. However, with the Supreme Council of the Military now in power, chants of "we have brought down the regime" may be premature.

Though the army is vowing to "undertak[e] the legitimate demands of the people" and "reach a free society to which people aspire," it will only do so "as soon as the current circumstances end." Before then, it asks for the "return of normal life" and for business activity to resume, even as it "delegate[s] the president's powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president." But, just as Anwar Sadat's assasination merely saw Mubarak rise to power, so delegating power to Suleiman offers Egyptians nothing new.

With him and Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defence minister, at the top of the government, it is clear that all we are seeing is a change of faces.

Mohammed ElBaradei, whom the West is keen to tout as the official "opposition," offers nothing better. He wants to see that "the country is restored as a socially cohesive, economically vibrant and ... democratic country," but defines this through a "transition government" that includes the army, his opposition, and other figures. A different faction, but no greater freedom.

Evidently, ordinary Egyptians sensed this too, with Al Jazeera reporting that many have vowed "a last and final stage" of protests.

As Adam Ford pointed out, "the task facing Egypt's workers is ... to advance a class-based programme, independently of any ruling class forces." There has been some advance in this regard, with the founding of an Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions, and yesterday's labour uprisings. The self-organisation of the protests in Tahrir Square show us where this could lead.

But first, attempts to push away from revolution in favour of token reforms to quell popular anger and maintain the status quo need to be resisted. Mubarak's departure should mark the beginning, not the end, of the revolution. My solidarity goes to those who continue to fight.