Egypt: A new day of repression leaves hundreds of demonstrators dead

The army seeks to impose order by blood and fire

August 20, 2013

Down with the state of emergency; no more repression!

Dawn is breaking in Cairo; the security forces are preparing to implement the order, dictated by the provisional government and the army, to disperse the demonstrators, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and activists in opposition to the civilian-military government, that are camping in Rabaa al Adauiya and Al Nahda Square. Trying to disperse those who gathered, with tear gas, rubber bullets, it began, on Wednesday, August 14, a new day of bloody repression with hundreds of demonstrators dead (the numbers differ, but, clearly, they exceed the government’s report, that speaks of 500 people) and thousands of wounded.

After the repression against the camps, the confrontations moved to several streets in the main cities of the country; barricades, attacks on police stations and official institutions spread in the outskirts of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and other cities. The response of the civilian government (a puppet at the service of the soldiers) was to declare the state of siege for a month, giving full powers to the army and the security forces, to arrest and burst into private homes. The streets of Egypt are, after this day, "taken" by the soldiers, while the Muslim Brotherhood is calling for taking up the mobilization again.

Brutal repression is opening up a new crisis in Egypt

The attempt, by the army and the provisional government, to defeat, through repression, the demonstrations against them, has become a risky move to a new crisis. When the news of the deaths, because of repression, became known, Vice President El Baradei announced his resignation with a letter that, cynically, expresses his repudiation of the violent expulsion (El Baradei has formed part of the government since Morsi’s downfall, and he has endorsed the repressions against the mobilizations). The European governments have been declaring their repudiation of "every type of violence," and calling on the government to take up the dialogue again. The most significant statements have been those from the White House, that call on the army to stop the repression, lift the state of siege and call elections; although President Obama has been careful to emphasize the vitality of the relationship with the Egyptian armed forces and their role in assuring peace with Israel, he did not refer to the millions in military aid that the United States gives.

El Baradei’s resignation, the statements from the different imperialist governments, with the United States at the head, are the sign of the concern that the repressive practices of the current government and the soldiers will unleash a bigger crisis. The imperialist governments are continuing to support the army, while it guarantees them the implementation of the austerity plans and stability in the region. Liberal Egyptian forces, like the National Salvation Front, that El Baradei leads, have been essential, when it came to serving as a civilian cover for the military coup against Morsi, that sought to guarantee the continuity of the state apparatus of Mubarak’s dictatorship, to preserve the role of arbiter and control of around 40% of the economy, keeping the country subordinate to the United States and the commitments to the State of Israel.

Despite the tension they could create, the soldiers are running the risk of launching a brutal repression, like that of yesterday, supported by what they consider a "blank check" handed over by the enormous mobilization of the masses at the end of June, that they got on, to throw Morsi out, through a civilian-military coup. Although no one can guarantee a lengthy "honeymoon," especially in the midst of massacres and a state of siege that reminds one of the worst times under Mubarak, the fact is that, at this moment, the army has not confronted massive actions against it, by the millions that went out at the end of June to mobilize against Morsi.

In this context, the repression against the camps is part of the anti-democratic practices of the army and the government, after the coup against Morsi and the usurpation of the mobilization of the masses.

To the hundreds of dead from yesterday, are added those from the previous demonstrations. The talk about the "struggle against terrorism," and the need to guarantee "national security" that the government is brandishing, in order to repress the Muslim Brotherhood, is being used against the workers’ organizations, as happened in recent weeks, with the arrest of the leaders of the Suez metalworkers.

It is necessary to call, now, for the immediate cessation of the state of emergency, the release of all those arrested, and the end of the persecution against political, religious and union organizations.

An attempt by the army to impose order through an "instructive" coup

The brutal repression against the camps of the Muslim Brotherhood is, as they stated from the government, an attempt to "put an end to an anarchic situation in the country," and this coup, together with the establishment of the state of siege, constitutes a precedent for attacking any group at the forefront that goes out to fight for its demands, or politically confronts the army. Not only the mobilizations of the supporters of former President Morsi are a concern for the current government and army. The workers’ movement, that had acted in a weakened manner in the demonstrations against Morsi, has begun, in the most recent weeks, to get mobilized. In Mahalla, a few weeks ago, the textile industry workers carried out a strike demanding an increase in wages, from the new government. The steel industry workers, in Suez, suffered repression from the army against one of their mobilizations, and their main leaders were imprisoned.

The Egyptian workers’ movement has been developing an enormous experience during these years, playing a prominent role in Mubarak’s downfall, with the emergence of new unions and by mobilizing for better living conditions. For the time being, the process of workers’ mobilization is focussing on economic demands and has not managed to appear as an independent political actor, although it cannot be ruled out, that, if they continue, they will tend to collide with the plan the army is preparing for the country, subjecting the Egyptian economy even more to the designs of imperialism, keeping the anti-popular measures of Morsi’s administration, that led to an increase in the costs of basic consumer goods. It is in this sense that army’s striking at the Muslim Brotherhood’s camps, in the name of the restoration of order, is a preventive and instructive message, in the face of any emergence of discontent.


After the brutal repression and the declaration of the state of siege, pictures seem to show the return to calm, based on militarizing the streets. The stories from correspondents in Egypt do not stop repeating that the measures taken by the government and the army remind one of the epoch of Mubarak. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the collapse of the Mubarak dictatorship, because of the mobilization, and it seems unlikely that the conquests achieved by the mobilization will be snatched away without new fights.

The army seems to want to keep power by guaranteeing the restoration of order. If the repression against the Muslim Brotherhood did not arouse massive repudiation, it is because the soldiers are relying on the legitimacy achieved on having removed Morsi from the presidency, after the mass mobilizations against him. The campaign against the "terrorism" of the Muslim movements, added to the fact that millions do not want Morsi to return to the presidency, as the Muslim Brotherhood is requesting, is what allows the provisional government and the soldiers to justify repression as necessary to maintain the country’s stability. But the first crises in the government, as El Baradei’s resignation shows, added to the intention to keep the state of emergency for a month, could create a deterioration of this legitimacy of the current government and be the catalyst for new mobilizations.

Imperialism, with the US at the head, clearly grasps that the situation is becoming highly unstable, for which reason they exerted pressure to go towards a new democratic diversion, with the call for new elections to try to guarantee a government legitimized by the ballot box, in order to implement the plans dictated by the IMF. The imperialist governments fear that the current polarization will result in a civil war, that will have regional repercussions.

This situation shows that, up to now, the attempts by the ruling class, the army and imperialism, have not managed to end the revolutionary process that began with Mubarak’s downfall. The groups that are confronting the repressive measures of the current government and proposing a "third square," also distinguishing themselves from the Muslim Brotherhood, have, for the time being, little strength. To strengthen an independent solution, it is necessary to raise a policy that will call for not trusting the different bourgeois variants, that were part of the government, and that are endorsing the repression, beginning with the rejection of the persecutions and murders against the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations, making it clear that Morsi’s return is no solution to the crisis.

A policy in this sense would allow the working class and the exploited and oppressed young people to begin to mobilize for their demands; they could appear as a new actor in the current situation. On this road, the workers 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.

August 14, 2013

Translated by Yosef M.