Monday, 21 November 2011

The need for a second Egyptian revolution to hand workers power

There has been some brutal scenes over the weekend of riot police violently clamping down on protests rising up in the squares of the city from the people who helped over throw their previous dictator Hosni Mubarak

From the BBC:

Clashes are continuing between demonstrators and security forces in the Egyptian capital as protests enter a fourth day.

At least 13 people died and hundreds were injured over the weekend as troops launched a major assault to clear Cairo's Tahrir Square of protesters.

Efforts to clear the square appeared to continue on Monday, with tear gas canisters being thrown at protesters.

The unrest casts a shadow over elections due to start next week.

It is the longest continuous protest since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

Demonstrators say they fear Egypt's governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is trying to retain its grip on power.

The council, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, is charged with overseeing the country's transition to democracy after three decades of autocratic rule under Mr Mubarak.

Calls for his resignation could be heard during th
Parts taken from CWI committee for workers international.

Eight months after the overthrow of Mubarak, workers and youth still face poverty, unemployment, corruption and repression

The court trial of Mubarak continues, together with his sons, Gamal and Alaa, and some of their cronies. Ahmed Ezz owns 70% of Egypt’s iron and steel production (bought cheaply when state-owned industries were privatised) and 50% of ceramics. He was a leading member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, senior member of the National Assembly and friend of Gamal Mubarak. On 14 September, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of LE660million ($111m = £70m) for corruption. For a man reported to own $1.5billion in 2008, the fine is small change. All privatised industries should be renationalised, without compensation to the owners, who made fortunes while paying low wages.

It is estimated that corruption - including bribery, tax evasion, theft, nepotism and extortion – may have cost the economy as much as $57 billion in 2000-2008, or an annual average of $6.4 billion. That’s about $800 a year for every man, woman and child while 40% live on less than a dollar a day.

Unemployment rising
The economy has been hard hit by the fall in tourism, one of Egypt’s largest employers. Revenues are down $1billion a month. Egypt Air is losing 56% of its passenger traffic. This is partly because of fears of insecurity following the violent attempt of the old regime to hang on to power, but also because of the global financial crisis, with falling living standards in many countries.

Withdrawal of foreign capital in the six months after the revolution totalled about $16 billion. A 7% fall in GDP during the first quarter of the year was the equivalent of a $30 billion loss to the economy. These factors have resulted in unemployment, already high, growing to anything between 10-20%. Rising prices also make life a growing struggle.

An opinion poll, last April, found that 63% felt unemployment was the biggest issue facing society. Eighty percent expected their household’s financial situation to get better in the next year. Seventy five percent were confident that the new government was able to address the main issues facing the country. Of those who participated in protests during the eighteen days that overthrew Mubarak (one quarter of respondents), 64% said unemployment and low living standards were their main reasons for doing so, compared to 19% who said lack of democracy and political reform.

Now that it is becoming clearer to working and middle class people that the economic situation is getting worse, and that the government is unable to improve living conditions, growing numbers of workers are taking strike action. They are realising that it is only by their own action that conditions are going to improve and that they cannot rely on the government to change their lives for the better.

Many are angry at the slowness of change and how the military rule are hanging on to power an d the democracy they were promised is simply not happening as far as they can see.
Some weariness after eight months of weekly demonstrations, many of them enormous, is to be expected. But there is also a growing realization that demonstrations are insufficient by themselves to change the situation. Working class solidarity and struggle by striking, and in some cases occupying workplaces, is growing and has the power to force concessions from government and employers. Momentum towards a national general strike needs to be built, to draw all sections of workers and youth together to win real democratic, workplace and social gains. This entails rank and file, democratic control of mass action and creating mass committees of action in the workplaces, communities and colleges that are linked up at local, regional and national levels.

Democratic socialist programme
But wage rises will not last long while prices continue to rise, and do not directly benefit the unemployed, poor farm workers and other sections of the poor. The capitalist system will always try to take back whatever it is forced to concede, while ever it remains in place. The task of active trade unionists, youth and socialists is to raise the idea of a government of workers and the poor to complete the revolution started on January 25th.

The strike wave raises the need for workers in different industries, both public and private sector, to organise their own mass workers’ party. Activists from different struggles need to join together. Youth and students, those fighting for democratic rights and other social and community campaigns also need to join with organised workers.

A democratic socialist programme would include a decent minimum wage of at least LE 1200 linked to rising prices, decent education and healthcare systems, a massive house-building programme and a shorter working week to provide jobs for the unemployed. These must be linked to nationalisation under democratic workers’ control and management of all big companies, large estates and banks. The economy could then be planned to meet the needs of the majority instead of the profits of a tiny minority.

It is time the Egyptian people were given what they demanded in the first place. Freedom, real freedom. Freedom from capitalism and repression .

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