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Proletarian issue 46 (February 2012)
Egypt: the masses are still in Tahrir Square
The harder imperialism tries to impose its own travesty of an ‘Arab spring’ upon the Libyans and Syrians, the clearer it becomes that the real ‘spring’ – the revolt of the oppressed and dispossessed against corrupt feudal sheikhdoms and other rulers imposed and maintained by the West – has not gone away and has plenty of unfinished business in its sights.

The continued dictatorship of Egypt’s corrupt and brutal military establishment since the token removal of Mubarak has wiped out some of the illusions that attended the early days of the protests.

Field Marshall Tantawi’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has for months been presiding over a reign of terror, which has seen over 12,000 dragged before military tribunals, the routine use of torture and beatings, and the deliberate stoking up of sectarian hatred against the Coptic christians. To cap it all, SCAF declared its intention of inventing a civilian advisory body composed of party representatives, artists and intellectuals to make suggestions and represent the military council in parliament. Further, if parliament wanted to make any changes affecting the army, it would need to ask the army’s permission!

The people’s response came in November and December, when hundreds of thousands again flooded into Tahrir Square to denounce the regime. The police reaction was murderous and well-publicised, with video footage on the internet showing soldiers stripping the clothes off the female protestors whom they were beating up.

The New York Times reported “more than 24 hours of street fighting in front of the military-occupied parliament building that left 10 dead from gunshots and hundreds wounded. For most of the previous day and night, men in plain clothes, accompanied by a few in uniform, stood on top of the ‘people’s assembly’ and hurled chunks of concrete and stone taken from inside the building down at the crowd of demonstrators several stories below.” (‘Leader denies use of violence as Cairo crackdown persists’ by David D Kirkpatrick, 18 December 2011)

If the token trial of the previous dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was supposed to distract attention from the crimes of the present dictator, it has failed miserably. Even Washington, traditionally so reliant upon its close relations with the Egyptian military, appears to be casting about for alternative allies – including within the Muslim Brotherhood, which topped the polls in the recent election.

US deputy secretary of state William Burns met the Brothers on 11 January, dangling hopes of US investment in Egypt – subject to cooperation with the IMF. An IMF delegation is anticipated with a possible reinstated $3bn loan offer, for whoever can best demonstrate willingness to bow the knee to imperialist diktat. Burns drew the line at meeting the Salafi leaders of the newly coined Nour party, runners-up in the election, perhaps finding their anti-zionist views too much to take.

A year on from the first signs of the ‘spring’, everything possible has been done to bamboozle or crush the spirit of Tahrir out of the Egyptian masses. Yet all that this has done is strip away the people’s illusions and harden their determination to resist. The steel of revolt is being tempered.

Long live the spirit of Tahrir Square!
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