Egypt: The new government decrees the state of exception and asks the army to restore order

Brutal repression leaves dozens of dead in Cairo

August 18, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Last Saturday, Cairo experienced a new day of mobilizations demanding the release of deposed President Morsi and against the new government, ignoring the ultimatum given by the Minister of Defense and General of the Army Al Sisi, that the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood should join the transitional government and leave the streets. The response of the army and the security forces to this challenge was a brutal repression that culminated in a massacre, when the police shot at the demonstrators. Nasser Avenue became a battlefield for hours, with barricades and bonfires, with dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded from among the demonstrators.

New provocations by Al Sisi as spokesman of the new government followed the repression, when he called the demonstrators terrorists, and condemned an alleged attack against the military forces. This Wednesday, through a decree, the government authorized the army to suppress the camps of the demonstrators that support Morsi, because the government considers them a threat to "national security"; this is in addition to the decrees of exception that authorize the armed forces to arrest civilians. These announcements are preparing new violent days.

The puppet government of an army at the service of imperialist interests

The new transitional civilian government is emerging as an expression of the usurpation by the army, of the masses that mobilized against Morsi’s government (see La Verdad Obrera 529). The July 3 coup, that put an end to the government of the Muslim Brotherhood, had as an aim, preventing the mobilization of millions, tired of neoliberal-style and pro-imperialist policies at the service of the interests of the businessmen, from throwing Morsi out.

The transitional government that Mansour (Chairman of the Supreme Court) is leading, has the support of the main opposition political figures, like El Baradei; it is a coalition of soldiers, bourgeois politicians, opportunistic organizations, that emerged from the mobilization, among them, the Tamarod ("Rebel") movement, and leaders of new unions (like the new Minister of Labor, Abu Eita, Chairman of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions). It is a government at the service of the army, that seeks to keep the state apparatus of Mubarak’s dictatorship intact, to preserve the role of arbiter and control of around 40% of the economy, to keep the country subordinated to the United States and the commitments to the State of Israel.

Repression and a reactionary attempt to get the masses off the streets

The coup against Morsi was seen by the millions that mobilized, as the fulfillment of their demands, and a step towards resolving their complaints; it is for this reason that broad groups are putting their hopes in the army, that it will improve the situation that has been deteriorating in the most recent years, a result of the economic crisis and the policies of the government. The soldiers seek to rely on these hopes, in order to strike at the opposition groups through repression.

The repression against the demonstrators on Saturday is not only an attack on the militants of the Muslim Brotherhood; it begins to show the army’s intention to solve a big problem: that of getting the mobilized masses off the streets, through force. The coalition that forms the new civilian government has been the accomplices of this operation, through decrees, like those that entitle the army to arrest civilians and restrict democratic freedoms, in the name of "national security."

The reactionary advance of the army against the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, the accusations against Morsi of "betraying" national security, for having tried to escape from the prisons of the dictator Mubarak, with help from Hamas, are the sign of the attempt by the upper echelons of the armed forces, to criminalize the opponents. Today it is the Muslim Brotherhood; tomorrow, other organizations, the unions and the mobilized workers.

The army’s offensive opens the doors of a new crisis

The calls from Al Sisi to the groups that are backing the new government to get mobilized, and the repression against the opposition’s demonstrations, are an attempt to consolidate the current government, but they are beginning to make the country’s stability hang by a thread. The Muslim Brotherhood, that, until less than a month ago, was the main partner of the armed forces, has now taken to the streets, on finding itself isolated from the government. This force’s going into opposition is a big change, since, although in crisis after having implemented the neoliberal plans during Morsi’s administration, it is main political movement of Egyptian Islamism.

The army’s attempt to take advantage of momentary popular support, in order to move forward with repression against the opponents could open up a new crisis, if it goes too far from the relationship of forces. It is not a coincidence that groups from the new government, like Vice President El Baradei or the Salafist Nour movement (of ultra-orthodox Islamism) have repudiated "the excessive violence" and are calling on the army to guarantee dialogue. The main European governments have expressed themselves in the same tone, and President Obama himself called for speeding up the transition and the calling of new elections. The US chief executive also requested two old Republican "hawks" (Including John McCain) to go "collaborate" with the armed forces and the new government, in order to advance in "dialogue and stability," one more indication of imperialist concern because of the situation and the possibility that confrontations will deepen the crisis in one of the main allies of the region.

The limits of the new government’s attack

This new attempt at a diversion by the civilian government and the soldiers, has much less legitimacy than the one that occurred after Mubarak’s downfall.

The economic crisis that is continuing to hit Egypt, and, in the framework of the capitalist crisis, the decline of the economy that depends on imports, is worsening the living conditions of the broad masses; unemployment has gone from 9% in 2010 to 13%. At least 25% of the population lives in poverty. The removal of subsidies for fuel and basic goods, as the IMF requested, was one of the driving forces of the anger against Morsi, and the program of the current government and the army is to continue those plans.

The expectations created among the masses, that the armed forces could be a solution to the crisis, are beginning to collide with the current situation, in which the army is starting to engage in harsh repression. Groups like the April 6 Movement (one of the main organizations during the mobilizations against Mubarak) or a big minority of union leaders, are beginning to declare themselves against the new repressive decrees. This is a result of the fact that the workers, the young people and the Egyptian masses have had an extraordinary experience of two and a half years of struggles, in the framework of the processes of the Arab Spring.

This situation shows that, up to now, the ruling class, the army and imperialism have not been able to end the revolutionary process that began with Mubarak’s downfall. It is necessary to raise an independent policy, by calling for no confidence in the different bourgeois variants, that are now part of the government that is endorsing the repression, beginning with rejection of the persecutions and murders against the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations. On this road, so that the working class and the exploited and oppressed young people will impose their demands, they have to develop their own organizations of self-determination and raise a transitional program that will combine the democratic, social and anti-imperialist demands and open the road to the struggle for workers’ and popular power.

July 31, 2013

Translated by Yosef M.