Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Egyptian Revolution

Wassim Wagdy is an Egyptian SWP member based in London. He went to Egypt when the revolution began and recently spoke at the Marxism Festival in London about his experiences. Below is a summary of what he said.

News of the Egyptian Revolution spread around the world instantaneously. The authorities In China had to block the word 'Egypt' from their search engines in case people in China learned too much about what was happening in Egypt and tried to copy them.

In strikes and on demonstrations people ask for things or even make demands but in a revolution people order things. The famous slogan that spread from Tunisia to Egypt and onwards could also be translated as "It is the people's will to bring down the regime".

In Tahrir Square people changed, "I have seen the seeds of a new humanity". The army wanted to encroach a few metres on the camp in Tahrir Square. Immediately people jumped in front of tanks and stopped them. They took turns for days and had long political discussions under tanks.

Twenty four hours a day people discussed revolutionary politics and what will happen after victory, for example to the police. One said, "they must stand in a line so people can refuse whoever they like". Another replied, "then we won't have any police". Then a third said "why can't the revolutionary committees become the police of the revolution?"

The regime threw everything at the people and the people won. That night was the first night that people were not tortured. Then the army came and thousands became millions. The people said "this square, this city, this land is ours". All the tanks wore the slogan, "down with the government".

"The people and the army are one hand", beacame the slogan. This meant the army could not fire on the people. After all, it is a conscript army of many poor people.

On 8 April, there were around twenty young uniformed officers in the square. The people in Tahrir Square protected the young officers and chanted, "down with the military council".

Then came the strike wave. The regime called them selfish. The strikers were calling for the minimum wage for all, more workers' control of production, re-nationaisation, better healthcare for all and better pay for health workers.

The military now want a "return to normality". But there is now a new normality. The revolution is deepening every day but opponents of the revolution are also standing together. The revolution cannot stand still, it must go forward or back. The regime have scapegoated Mubarak, other politicians and now business leaders.

We need a revolutionary party to lead the workers to a better human society for the whole world.

A number of people made comments after Wassim had finished speaking.

Judith Orr, editor of Socialist Worker, made the point that the 30 June strikes in Britain would not have been as good as they were without the revolution in Egypt. She spoke about how the most oppressed people in society felt able to take part in the revolution: street kids, women, young people. She also called on the British government to stop bombing Libya and to let the people make their own revolution. "You don't bomb civilians to protect civilians", she said.

Sameh Naguib, an Egyptian activist and academic, said the new slogan today in Tahrir Square is "down with the field-marshall".

Richard Boyd Barrett, an activist who was elected to the Irish Parliament in February, said capitalism and imperialism has turned cannibal. We destroy the health service in order to save it, we throw people out of work in order to save jobs. Five candidates from the newly-formed United Left Alliance were elected in February in Ireland. The Irish government are hysterically saying "we are not Greece, we are not Egypt", but people do make the connections. We must "lay siege to the siege".

Socialist Worker journalist Simon Assaf said for too long arabs have been described as backward and sectarian, but throughout the revolutions people have fought against sectarianism with chants such as, "christian, muslim, one hand".

The pamphlet 'The Egyptian Revolution' by Sameh Naguib is available from Bookmarks the Socialist Bookshop for just £3.

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