By JOHN LESLIE
Protests rocked Egypt last month as protesters took to the streets demanding the downfall of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi following the revelations of a corruption scandal. The protests began on Sept. 19 and did not fully subside for almost two weeks when quashed by government repression.
Construction magnate Mohamed Aly posted a series of videos on social media exposing el-Sisi, his wife, and elements of the military for corruption and millions of dollars in misallocated funds. Aly called for protests to drive el-Sisi from power, sparking demonstrations smaller than the massive protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak in 2011 as part of the region-wide Arab Spring upsurge. The protests have also been motivated by rising prices and a reduction in state food subsidies.
In January 2011, Egypt’s protest movement grew to tens of thousands—bringing the working class, women, and youth into motion. On Feb. 11, Mubarak resigned, handing power to a military junta. Subsequent elections brought Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to power with significant support from a section of the revolutionary movement that had brought down Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood had only played a limited role in the 2011 mobilizations.
Morsi attempted to impose an Islamic constitution on the country despite mass opposition. A military coup, led by Defense Minister el-Sisi, overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government. El-Sisi was subsequently elected president in May 2014 in a rigged election. His regime brutally repressed unions and popular movements. The state structure that maintains el-Sisi in power is very much the same as the regime led by Mubarak.
El-Sisi’s government has been a valuable asset of U.S. imperialism in the region, helping to subvert anti-government protests in Sudan and aiding in the strangulation of Gaza on behalf of the U.S. and Israel. Donald Trump has referred to el-Sisi as his “favorite dictator.”
The failure of the Tahrir Square protests to move beyond demands for democracy and the misguided support of the popular movement for the Muslim Brotherhood had the consequence of demobilizing the movement and allowed the old regime to reassert itself behind a new mask.
In the recent events, state security forces moved quickly to repress demonstrations and blocked streets leading to Tahrir Square, the center of the 2011 protest movement. Well over 2000 protesters have been arrested, as have journalists, lawyers, and political figures.
Human rights attorney Mahienour el-Massry was seized by the police outside of a court building in Cairo as she prepared to represent Mohamed Baker. Baker, a lawyer and director of the Justice Center, was arrested in a court building in Cairo on Sept. 29, along with activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, whom he was representing.
The struggle for democracy and the fall of the regime requires an all-out fight under the leadership of the working class and its allies. This means rejecting illusions in bourgeois parties and figures.
Egypt’s potentially powerful working class has yet to speak and act in its own name. Building fighting unions and a revolutionary workers party will be difficult under conditions of repression, but an independent class struggle is the best way forward. A working-class revolution in Egypt would reignite the struggle for democracy and justice in the whole Middle East and North Africa.
More recently, several days of protests took place in Iraq, no doubt encouraged by events in Egypt. Iraqi demonstrators—demanding jobs, investments in the crumbling infrastructure, and an end to government corruption—were met with armed repression, resulting in over 100 reported deaths.
Down with the Egyptian regime! Free all political prisoners! Stop the repression!