Thursday, 3 February 2011

What next in Egypt?

The rebellion in Egypt has passed tipping point. There is a militancy surging through the people there that simply refuses to be quelled by any means, diplomatic or brutal. They want the government out, and will stand their ground until they get it. As a result, the Mubarak regime and its western backers are getting desperate, and it is hard to tell what will come next.

Today's million-strong demonstration in Cairo saw three dead. The regime has wheeled out state agents masquerading as "pro-government protesters," who have wrought carnage on the streets whilst the army looked on. But still people refuse to leave the main square whilst the government stands.

For his part, Mubarak is equally keen to stand his ground. After a day of talks with US officials, he announced his intention to stay in office until elections in Autumn. But people want rid of him now. They rejected the "reform" supposedly represented by the installation of intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Vice President and former air force commander Ahmed Shafik as prime minister. His concessions are "insufficient," and people "have no intention of giving him some sort of eight month farewell tour. They want him gone immediately and they plan to keep the pressure up."

We need to hope that they do. For it is certain that, as the struggle goes on, a number of forces will be acting against those seeking to oust the dictator and win their freedom.

Chief amongst them is the United States. Thus far, they are sticking with their client, but we can be sure that it is not Mubarak's interests they hold at heart. They seek only "stability" - that is, profitability for the ruling class.

As the markets take a battering from the upheaval, they will be on the lookout should an opportunity to end it arise. Though at present the best such prospect (in their eyes) is maintaining the current government, a replacement or power-sharing arrangement involving Mohammed ElBaradei could overtake that quite quickly given the right circumstances. In Adam Ford's words, "whichever combination of Mubarak, his cronies, the army, and the official opposition holds power in the coming period, the state's main goal will be to suppress the working class" and restore the markets.

As a counter to that, the Egyptian people need to self-organise and reject all who would claim to lead them. Ford points to the founding of an Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions and reports of wildcat strikes as "an extremely positive step." Especially if it will strengthen the control of rank-and-file workers over their revolution, as reports of class unity across religious boundaries suggest.

Even now, absolutely nothing is guaranteed. The Egyptian "revolution" could lead to nothing, or be overtaken by reaction, at least as readily as it could yield a re-organisation of society from the ground up. But whatever the case, our solidarity should be with the people amassing on the streets.