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Egypt: the counter-revolution reigns in blood

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Official figures accept that over 500 people have been massacred as Egypt’s generals attempt to crush the Muslim Brotherhood’s protests against the July 3 coup, which saw their president, Mohamed Morsi, deposed and arrested. Brotherhood sources put the number in the thousands. A month-long state of emergency has been declared
 
Whatever illusions there may have been in the ‘revolutionary’ intentions of the generals have surely now drained away on the bloody floors of Cairo’s field hospitals and morgues. The wounds of thousands shot and gassed resisting the crackdown are proof that al-Sisi’s military junta is the implacable enemy of the Egyptian revolution.
 
The army has decided to crush the Brotherhood because it can permit no civilian political rival to its rule over the Egyptian people. The revolution faces its hour of greatest danger. The military, which claimed the mantle of defender of the revolution, is revealed as its gravedigger.
 
All those who supported the revolution of 11 February and defended it against Tantawi and Morsi must now defend it against al-Sisi. They must denounce and resist the state of emergency, defend the right to peaceful mass protests in the streets and squares, the right to strike, free access to the media and the immediate release of all political prisoners including those of the Brotherhood and Morsi himself.
 
Two faces of the counter-revolution
 
But the Muslim Brotherhood itself opened the road to the massacres at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and Nahda Square.
 
Brought to power in a deeply flawed election process that blocked out most of the forces who led the February revolution, President Morsi moved to secure his position, and the interests of the sections of capital he represents, by attacking the democratic gains of the revolution.
 
He turned the security apparatus inherited from Mubarak, Sadat and Nasser against Egypt’s workers and youth who continued to struggle to extend the victories won in 2011 – victories won no thanks to the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
When the Brotherhood supporters attacked working class protests and strikes, when they did nothing to release the hundreds of revolutionaries in military prisons and when their thugs attacked Coptic churches, they earned the justified enmity of the mass of Egyptian workers and youth. This culminated in the huge anti-Morsi demonstrations of May and June.
 
However, if the rule of Morsi and the Brotherhood represented a ‘new’ enemy of the Egyptian workers, al-Sisi's military coup and repression reveal that the old enemy, the military caste and its repressive regime, was never defeated, it was only biding its time.
 
The generals saw their opportunity when 17 million people rose up against Morsi’s authoritarian presidential rule, demanding once again the fall of the regime and the continuation of the revolution.
 
Thanks to an unholy alliance consisting of the opportunist leadership of Tamerod, treacherous liberals like El Baradei, who thought they could use the military to oust Morsi, and the feloul, the former agents of the Mubarak regime, the army was able to seize the initiative from the movement in the street, just as it did when it forced out Mubarak in 2011.
 
 A bitter harvest
 
The July 3 coup-makers wrapped themselves in the language of defending the revolution and preparing new elections. The decision to crush the independent base of the Brotherhood shows the army will use any future election as only a democratic façade to hide their own continued dictatorship.
 
The politicians who celebrated the coup and joined the military’s puppet government have blood on their hands that they cannot wash away by resigning, like El Baradei, or by claiming they were deceived. 
 
Egypt’s national capitalist class is weak and divided. Its strongest civilian element, represented by the Brotherhood, cannot directly challenge the economic and physical power of the army. Those sections represented by the liberal parties are even weaker.

It is now plain that even the fight for a democratic revolution that would establish free and fair elections, the rights to free speech and assembly, the rights of women and religious minorities and the right to strike and organise for workers, cannot be left to the liberals or the Islamists, or even the more radical youth organisations that are linked to either of them.
 
So who can save the revolution from the counterrevolution in both its military and its Islamist forms?
 
Who makes the revolution must lead it
 
The biggest obstacle to achieving the revolutionary aspirations of the Egyptian working class and poor masses remains the military and its institutional forces of repression; the secret police, the paramilitary forces and the special hit squads reportedly responsible for the targeted assassination of demonstrators.
 
Without completely smashing the remnants of the old regime, cultivated and protected not only by the generals but also by the Brotherhood, the revolution cannot go forward. The generals’ hold over their rank and file soldiers, the chain of command and military discipline, has to be broken. That means winning over the rank and file both to refuse to obey any orders to fire on the people and to remove the officers and commanders who issue them. A new leadership and discipline must be established by electing soldiers' committees and councils in the barracks. Only then will “the army and the people be one hand”. The special squads of snipers and murderers will have to be broken up and those who ordered the killing must be subjected to revolutionary justice.

The democratic goals of the February revolution can only be established beyond challenge if the working class takes the lead in fighting to bring down the dictatorship and establishing the revolutionary power of the people, expressed in councils of workers, youth, peasants and the urban poor. Even when the power of the exploited classes is established, the revolution cannot stop at these objectives. To realise the other slogan of February, “social justice”, it will have to move on to creating a workers' and peasants' government and enacting socialist measures; the nationalisation of the factories, banks and large scale commercial enterprises, the confiscation of the lands and property of the military and the private landowners.

In short, the Egyptian democratic revolution is faced with the need to pass on uninterruptedly from democratic to socialist tasks. This cannot happen by some automatic process; it will need the leadership of the organised working class. For this, the workers, with the aid of the revolutionary youth, need to create delegate councils and mass assemblies and a militia to protect themselves against the military and the Islamist thugs. In the course of this, and as quickly as possible, the socialist groups and the union militants in the factories need to unite themselves into a revolutionary party with a clear programme based on the strategy of permanent revolution.
 
Mass mobilisations and strikes – create defence organisations
 
The days of occupying squares are over as long as the state of emergency holds and the soldiers obey their officers and generals. The first task now is to make it plain that it is not only the Islamists who are opposed to the coup but also the working class and the revolutionary youth.
 
The generals’ social strength lies in the fact they have convinced a large section of the population that the Brotherhood was the main danger and that they, the generals, were out to defend democracy, secularism and minority rights. This strength can only be undermined by massive political agitation by the workers' and youth organisations, demanding an immediate and unconditional end to martial law.
 
Against the regime’s terror, workers must organise to defend themselves. At a time when the army is turning its guns on the people, it would be suicide to suggest this can mean anything less than organisations of armed self-defence. As the example of Syria shows, however, even an armed people cannot defeat a disciplined professional army on their own, and especially not an army which receives $3.1 billion in military aid each year from the United States.
 
The revolutionary struggle hinges on the ability of the workers to win over the conscript soldiers – and this can be done. Already al-Sisi is wary of using such soldiers for the bloodiest oppression, relying instead on specialist units. The generals' greatest fear is that the discipline of the great mass of soldiers will be undermined by their loyalty to their own classes.

That is the weak point on which workers' and peasants' organisations must concentrate. Appeals for solidarity should come not only from the national organisations but from families and from the soldiers' home districts. Revolution after revolution has shown that this, combined with the emergence of a new power in the land, the organised workers and peasants, can convince the soldiers to turn their guns on the generals rather than their own brothers and sisters in the streets.
 
The working class must look to its historic methods of struggle in order to mobilise its true power against the military regime. We must expect that the military will use the state of emergency to crush strikes and arrest worker militants. This can be resisted by massive class solidarity that does not allow section after section to be picked off.

At a certain moment, as the resistance grows in the factories and the industrial districts, the call for a general strike will become the issue of the day. It will have to be initiated and directed by democratic councils of the working class. This can draw millions into action and will challenge the exploiters’ control of the wealth produced by Egypt’s workers.

Convene a constituent assembly - fight for a workers' government
 
The generals have issued another constitutional edict and will do all in their power to rig the elections, if they hold them at all.  Workers and revolutionary youth must demand instead a sovereign constituent assembly convened and overseen by democratic organisations of the working class. The task of this assembly must be to create a new constitution that defends the rights of the working class and oppressed against the interests of the generals, the bosses and US imperialists.

Its success or failure will be judged by whether it can destroy the material basis for a new counterrevolution. The bosses, the generals and the millionaire foreign economic interests must be nationalised under workers' control, the generals must be arrested and brought to justice.

The Assembly must be made up of delegates directly recallable by their electors. It must recognise only a government of the workers, peasants and youth, based on their mass organisations of struggle that can establish the democratic demands of the people in their entirety, arm the masses and dissolve the apparatus of repression. It will set out to expropriate the exploiters in order to meet the burning needs of the workers, the poor and the unemployed.

• Down with al-Sisi and the army high command – bring the murderers of the people to justice

• Down with the state of emergency and the curfew – restore the rights to assemble and to demonstrate. Release all political prisoners.

• Defend the Copts and other religious minorities, defend women against attack, whether by religious bigots or state provocateurs.

• Neither a military regime nor the return of Morsi but a workers' and peasants' government.

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