Act One of the Egyptian Revolution

Issue: 130

Philip Marfleet

Of all the startling scenes which made up Act One of the Egyptian Revolution, the events in Tahrir Square on 2 February were surely most astounding. When Mubarak sent gangs of plainclothes police to attack demonstrators, the protesters fought like demons. They first resisted, then drove back the baltagiyya (criminals/thugs). As news of the battle spread, people flooded in from every area of Cairo, racing to the front line to support the resistance. Even Robert Fisk of the Independent, who has seen conflicts worldwide, observed: “It was incredible, a risen people who would no longer take violence and brutality and prison as their lot”.1

The episode revealed much about Egypt’s upheaval. It showed how readily Mubarak turned to intense violence. Fisk, who witnessed the events, comments that introduction of the baltagiyya “was vicious and ruthless and bloody and well planned”.2 Mubarak and his inner circle of ministers, relatives and business associates expected that well-tried techniques would serve to break the protest movement. Their orders were to savage demonstrators—to break bones and to crush the will of the uprising. In the streets the people understood. It was a battle for their very lives: against poverty, hunger and joblessness; against fear, abuse and torture. Their numbers and their anger reached critical mass; nine days later Mubarak was gone. Unsure of the loyalties of a conscript army, Egypt’s generals finally pulled the plug on the dictator. As the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces they now formally hold power, guardians of a system rejected by millions who continue to agitate for radical change.

At the time of writing the focus has moved from Tahrir Square to workplaces across the country, with strikes in many of Egypt’s key industries. Workers have raised a host of demands—on wages, bonuses, contracts, pensions, health insurance, union rights and recognition, and for removal of management and official trade union leaders who abused them throughout the Mubarak years. In Suez the army has seized managers accused of corruption.3 At the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla Al Kubra, Egypt’s largest publicly owned company and the biggest textile mill in the Middle East, strikers have demanded prosecution of managers they charge with corruption and with victimisation of union activists. A process of purging has begun—what activists of the 1974 Revolution in Portugal called saneamiento (cleansing). Among the first indicted was steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a senior official of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and one of Mubarak’s billionaire friends, arrested by order of the Supreme Council. Others detained included interior minister Habib al-Adly, housing minister Ahmed Maghrabi and tourism minister Zuheir Garana.

Apparatus of repression

The speed of events has been extraordinary. On 25 January 2011 the interior minister had been hailed by regime supporters as “Egypt’s number one defender of human rights”. In a demonstration at the Supreme Court staged for the official media they chanted: “Habib al-Adly is the hero who protects Egypt from danger” and “Habib, hit with an iron fist!”4 Adly responded to mass protests which began the same day by mobilising the hated riot police; when they failed to clear the streets he organised the baltagiyya. This approach was consistent with Mubarak’s attitude to popular protest throughout his presidency. On acceding to power in 1981 Mubarak imposed the Emergency Law. He suspended legal rights; banned strikes, demonstrations and public meetings of more than ten individuals; censored or closed newspapers; and introduced military courts in which there was no recourse to appeal. He massively expanded the security apparatus, encouraging police and intelligence agencies to act with impunity by seizing and incarcerating suspects at will. Modest concessions were offered in order to co-opt more pliable elements within the opposition; if these proved insufficient to contain dissent, the stick was readily available and Mubarak used it freely.

The regime established a vast apparatus of repression. In addition to the civil police it mobilised the paramilitary riot force, Amn alMarkazi (Central Security), and multiple security/intelligence agencies.5 These worked to suppress every form of independent political activity, pursuing even those who attempted to operate within the narrow range of activities notionally permitted by the regime. When in 2004 the mild liberal reformist Ayman Nour formed the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party and stood against Mubarak in a presidential election he was promptly framed and imprisoned.

Numerous academic assessments credit the regime with subtle means of co-optation said to have played a key role in neutralising opposition. Maye Kassem, for example, comments that Mubarak has used “a mixture of fear and rewards” to co-opt opposition parties, trade unions and professional syndicates, with the effect that his long reign has been continuously extended without major political crises.6 This was indeed the approach adopted in the 1950s and 1960s when Gamal Abdel Nasser’s radical nationalism seduced the Stalinist left—leading Communists abandoned their party to take senior positions in the bureaucracy while workers’ leaders were absorbed into state-backed unions. The regime of Anwar Sadat in the 1970s also practised co-optation, modifying Nasser’s monolithic single party, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), to find space for “platforms” said to represent key opposition groups. By this means the bourgeois liberal Wafd and the remnants of communist and Nasserist organisations were given rights to organise as distinct political currents. But the changes were of limited value: the “platforms” ran offices and publications but were forbidden to organise publicly, with the result that they were in effect parties without members. Mubarak maintained these restrictions throughout his years in power. Rif’at al-Said, leader of the National Progressive Unionist Party (usually known as al-Tagammu’),7 has commented that parties recognised by the regime “represent nothing in Egyptian politics and have no standing whatsoever with the Egyptian people”.8 None are “parties in the true sense of the term”, he says: “All these are just groupings of individuals floating on the surface of society”.9

In most authoritarian states returns from co-optation diminish greatly when it becomes clear that official bodies act as outliers of the regime or operate at its whim. In the case of Egypt, Mubarak’s determination to control every area of formal politics meant that even the tamest opposition activists were denied opportunities to develop meaningful agendas and failed to develop constituencies of support. At election time, polling stations were routinely surrounded by riot police who protected officials engaged in ballot-rigging and fraud, and whose job was to guarantee huge majorities for NDP candidates. At the November 2010 parliamentary elections, Ahram Weekly reported:

Footage showed people stuffing ballot boxes, attacking voting stations, opening and destroying ballot boxes, in some cases by setting them on fire. Independent watchdogs say nine people were killed in connection with the violence that erupted in dozens of constituencies across the nation.10

Results were often determined by Mubarak’s officials in advance: before the November 2010 election the speaker of the People’s Assembly (the lower house) told Muslim Brotherhood deputies they would not be returning after the poll; in the first round, as predicted, no Brotherhood candidates were elected and the organisation withdrew, furious but helpless. 11

Alone among established opposition currents the Brotherhood has maintained some independence from the state. Founded in the 1920s, it played a leading (if inconsistent) role in anti-colonial struggles and in support of the early Palestinian resistance. Repressed by Nasser, it returned to the scene under Sadat and in the absence of other viable political alternatives grew quickly to become a mass organisation.12 Although illegal, it has been permitted to engage in electoral activity by standing “independent” candidates known to be Brotherhood supporters. At the same time it has played by Mubarak’s rules, instructing its many members not to organise collective public activity. This has not prevented successive waves of repression in which thousands of Brothers have been seized and imprisoned. In recent years Mubarak has humiliated the organisation by incarcerating its most esteemed elderly leaders: still the organisation did not respond with public initiatives.

In the face of “zero tolerance” on the part of the state the organisation has retreated more and more rapidly from the political arena,13 so that a recent analysis suggested that it was “beset by confusion and political decline…gripped by a structural and ideological crisis which has erupted into unprecedented internal disputes”.14 In 2009 a conservative group seized the leadership of the organisation: the position of the new general guide of the Brotherhood, Mohamed Badei, was described as “renunciation of violence, gradual reform, non-confrontation with the regime and other familiar stances”.15 The cost of internal conflict and public retreat has been considerable: a younger generation of supporters has been alienated from the organisation, which was conspicuous by its absence from the streets when the mass movement began its confrontation with Mubarak. It was only after days of protest that rank and file members joined the demonstrations, eventually playing a key role in resistance to the police and the thugs. These tensions are evident in factional debates currently running strongly within the organisation.

Torture and abuse

For the last 20 years Mubarak has offered few inducements to the opposition. The general crisis of political representation has become more acute; meanwhile the regime has intensified repression. In 1991 Human Rights Watch produced an extensive report on torture and detention. Behind Closed Doors noted that security dragnets had been cast so wide that all manner of people were detained, abused and tortured for information they did not possess.16 The following year repression was stepped up when police and troops entered the Cairo district of Imbaba to assault radical Islamist currents which had built up large constituencies of support in the city’s poorest districts.17 The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights recorded police sweeps followed by collective punishment of hundreds of local residents.18 Similar assaults followed in cities of the south in which the Islamists had also made gains, and in rural areas in which police and troops razed fields and villages to locate activists. Torture became common in police stations across the country. Gasser Abdel-Razek of Human Rights Watch later observed that serious forms of abuse became standard techniques of interrogation. “It became a culture,” he says. “We have two generations of police who were brought up to use torture against Islamists. But if it’s allowed and seen as effective, it spreads”.19 Since the 1990s torture has become an everyday practice of the police and security agencies in every area of Egypt.

In 2003 lawyers and human rights activists formed the Egyptian Association Against Torture (EAAT). They maintained that abuse had become “an oppressive policy that is adopted by the ministry of the interior and security bodies and authorities, an organised, systematic and ongoing policy used against citizens to ensure complete submission of the people”.20 Millions of Egyptians had been abused, or knew of family, friends or workmates who had been tortured: hence the success in recent years of campaigns launched by social networking sites to expose particularly notorious cases. This is the background to attacks by police and plainclothes gangs in and around downtown Cairo in early February 2011—and part of the explanation for the fightback by demonstrators. The police and security agencies not only represented alnizam (the order/the system) but a sinister and cruel presence in many people’s lives. The prospect of losing the Battle of Tahrir to police charged with a new campaign of revenge was unthinkable—hence the ferocious resistance and ultimately the crucial victory of Tahrir. This has been followed by numerous mass attacks on offices of state security across the country, in which demonstrators have seized police files and searched cells to find torture equipment and in the hope of releasing prisoners.


The mass movement has called for Egypt’s rulers to be held to account for corruption and theft. Mubarak is widely rumoured to have seized scores of billions of dollars: even the American media notes estimates of an illicit fortune of $40 billion to $70 billion.21 The former president is often seen as the architect of an Egyptian version of “crony capitalism”—a term favoured by neoliberal economists and global financial institutions which maintain that there are “clean” means of doing business which separate healthy private enterprise from the interests of the state. During the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Michel Camdessus used the term widely to suggest that illicit relations between business people and state officials amounted to corruption and brought local and eventually global economic instability.22 In fact, as Noam Chomsky observes, the history of capitalism is one of intimate relations between entrepreneurs and the state.23 He observes that, from the very earliest phases of modern commercial and industrial enterprise, “merchants and manufacturers are the principal architects of government policy and they make sure their own interests are well cared for, however grievous the effects on others”.24 In the case of the independent Egyptian state, Nasser and the Free Officers Movement relegated private capital to a subordinate role throughout the 1950s and 1960s; business survived, however, and was able to use the state itself as means of advancing specific private interests.

The 1952 coup, which brought Nasser to power, was an outcome of sustained struggles against British occupation and monarchical rule. In a period of revolutionary possibilities it was also an example of revolution “deflected”—of the intervention of a radical nationalist current which used the armed forces to implement specific reforms but which also sought to control and ultimately to demobilise the mass movement.25 Nasser and his colleagues were petty bourgeois professionals hostile to colonialism and at the same time to the mass movement itself. Their first decisive action was to suppress strikes and to order the execution of worker militants.26 They also inveighed against peasant activism and put down efforts by fellaheen (peasants) to seize the lands of the great estates; instead they introduced a closely managed reform, a significant development but one which disappointed those who had struggled for years for direct access to the land.27 The officers were initially sympathetic to the West and strongly attracted by the possibility of alliances with Europe and the United States. It was only when rebuffed by the latter, and still under strong pressure from below, that they adopted strategies which brought conflict with Britain over the Suez Canal and ultimately a new alignment with the Soviet Union.

The Suez episode of 1956 projected Nasser to leadership of the anti-colonial movement across the Middle East. He became the focus of radical sentiment in general and especially of pan-Arabism and of Palestinian hopes to confront Israel. Over the course of the next decade he nationalised most foreign capital and laid the basis for a welfare state in which education and health services were to be provided universally and food security was to be guaranteed. State control over the economy would, Nasser believed, build up a strong independent capitalism in Egypt. He did not suppress private capital, however. Many small businesses survived, together with powerful landed interests, which Nasser encouraged during the late 1960s as the economy became increasingly unstable. The new military elite and senior officials of the bureaucracy cohabited with private capital, so that Egypt’s state capitalism was a hybrid formation in which, Malak Zaalouk observes, private capital found a place within the “state bourgeoisie”.28

This was the basis for developments under Sadat, who in 1974 set about dismantling the Nasser state. His infitah (opening) encouraged private investment, welcomed foreign capital and reoriented Egypt from Moscow towards Washington and the market model. Building on foundations provided by private landed and commercial interests, a new network of traders, commission agents and property speculators grew rapidly—the “fat cats” of the late 1970s whose greed and conspicuous consumption infuriated many Egyptians. When Mubarak took office in 1981 he embraced this strategy and gradually increased the pace of change. Egypt was now firmly aligned with the US and with neoliberal economists whose views dominated the World Bank and the IMF, to which Mubarak repeatedly applied for loans. Infitah was moving too slowly for these institutions, which demanded rapid reduction of food subsidies and tariff barriers, and wholesale privatisations of state enterprise. Mubarak soon adopted their agenda, implementing the Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Programme (Ersap) of 1991. Like Mexico, in the grip of change dictated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), Egypt now became a laboratory for high-speed marketisation. The government prepared to sell state-owned industries and to “de-sequester” the land-to reverse Nasser’s reforms by returning to landowners of the colonial era (or their families) millions of hectares that for 50 years had been cultivated by fellaheen. In return Mubarak obtained new loans and the Paris Club of international creditors reduced Egypt’s debts by almost £30 billion.

Clement Henry and Robert Springborg comment that by the mid-1990s Egypt was being governed by “a nexus of cronies, officers, bureaucrats and public sector managers”.29 It was difficult to discriminate between these categories. Egyptian state capitalism had long been incubating a private sector that extended into many branches of public activity. Senior state officials were already active in property, commerce and agriculture; now they advanced into industry, striking deals with incoming foreign companies for whom their influence proved invaluable. The whole process was observed closely by US, World Bank and IMF officials committed to the twin principles of demolishing the remains of the developmental state inherited from Nasser and “opening” Egypt to the world market. If Mubarak’s associates were “cronies” they were at the very heart of the neoliberal project.


At the same time Mubarak worked consistently to consolidate the central apparatus inherited from the Nasser state. He received huge sums of economic aid and foreign military assistance from the US: between 1977 and 2007 this averaged $2.1 billion a year—only Israel received more.30 Much was spent on relatively advanced American weaponry for forces that did not engage in any actions initiated by the Egyptian state against foreign powers (Egyptian troops put in brief appearances in support of the US in the Gulf War of 1991). The uniformed establishment—the armed forces and paramilitary police—was increased to some one million men (not including civil police and security agencies).31 Officers were indulged with all manner of special benefits: subsidised housing on modern estates, enhanced pensions, and access to dedicated social clubs and purpose-built seaside resorts. They were integral to the security of the regime, now also faced by contradictions that arose from Mubarak’s success in securing vast wealth for an inner network of supporters and in supervising a historic increase in general social inequality.

Even the World Bank noted the changes: by 2005, it said, the proportion of Egyptians living in “moderate poverty” had increased significantly to a fifth of the population, some 15 million people.32 Others who applauded the regime’s commitment to neoliberalism entered anxious reservations about the consequences: the Economist identified a sharp increase in inequality, describing the nouveaux riches as “new pharaohs” whose ostentation disturbed society at large.33 From the late 1990s there was a huge property boom, “hot” money flooding into Egypt from the Gulf states to finance new estates for the wealthy, built largely on Cairo’s desert fringe, and including gated communities, shopping malls, hypermarkets, multiplex cinemas and new private universities. Gated reservations reflected the California-style aspirations of new money and its global connections: Lakeside, Dreamland, Utopia and the rest were zones of affluence guarded by private security companies and ultimately by peasants and urban poor conscripted into the Amn alMarkazi. Built on state land sold at knock-down prices to property tycoons like Ahmed Bahgat (builder of Dreamland), they were provided with expressway connections to country clubs and coastal resorts which allowed the rich to bypass the inner city and the sprawling outer areas of Cairo and Alexandria, teeming with people living precariously at the margins of survival and increasingly bitter at a regime that now flaunted privilege.

From 2000 the civil police and riot police became increasingly active against new forms of collective protest. These began with widespread actions in support of the Palestinian intifada. Rabab El-Mahdi describes the development of “cycles of protest” which took those involved into new territory—more and more adventurous public activities which proved difficult for the state to contain.34 In 2003 there was a massive mobilisation in Cairo against the US/British invasion of Iraq, demonstrators occupying the centre of the city in a “Tahrir intifada” that was to be a dress rehearsal for 2011. Gaining confidence, the following year activists initiated a series of campaigns for democratic change, organising rallies, lobbies, marches and “flash mob” protests facilitated by email networks and social networking sites. Caught unawares, the police were often absent, so that for the first time in almost 60 years extended anti-regime protests took place without harassment. Although numbers were small there was a steady growth of confidence, reflected in workplace struggles which also now emerged across all sectors of industry. In 2005 there were 202 collective labour actions; in 2006 the number rose to 222; and in 2007 to 614.35 These included mass action at the Mahalla al-Kubra textile mill-the most important sustained strike for over 20 years, which won key concessions and acted as a green light for numerous other groups of workers. Anxious about generalising the movement, the regime hesitated to engage strikers frontally. Ministers made their usual threats but combined these with concessions and often stood off workplaces in dispute, hoping to exhaust those involved. Emboldened, other groups engaged in all manner of protests: for student rights on campus, over shortages of bread and water, against land seizures, in response to housing disasters (following numerous incidents of collapsed buildings) and against police brutality.

There was an organic growth of confidence in self-activity across society. This came as the world economic crisis was having its inevitable impacts: unemployment in Egypt rose and the prices of food and fuel rocketed. For the first time since the 1970s there were acute shortages of flour and tragic scenes in which people fighting for access to bread died in conflicts at street bakeries. The regime continued as before: hesitating over industrial struggles it nonetheless attacked democracy activists, community protesters, journalists and bloggers with renewed savagery. In the parliamentary elections of November 2010 it hardly bothered to conceal the scale of fraud and ballot-rigging. In January 2011 the Tunisian Revolution expelled Ben Ali: the dam finally broke as diverse sectors of Egyptian society unified, a mass of struggles becoming one.

Act two

The first phase of the revolution was made by a popular movement of youth, students, workers and the poor. For the first time in their lives the mass of the people experienced collective power and the means to use it for general betterment. This will not be surrendered lightly; at the same time it will need to be fought for. Egyptians removed a dictator; most now wish to remove the dictatorship. There are universal demands for an end to Emergency Law, for democratic reforms including rights to association and the creation of political parties, free elections and an end to abuse by the agencies of the state.

Notionally the armed forces hold power. At the time of writing they have not confronted the movement that removed the president. Nor, however, have they acceded to mass demands, including abandonment of the Emergency Law. Numerous groups and individuals are positioning themselves for struggles to come. A cabinet of Mubarak’s men plus figures from the legal opposition, including the general secretary of the tame Wafd Party, is in formation. Among those hoping for preferment are members of a self-appointed Council of Wise Men—academics, lawyers and businessman who wish to establish a liberal capitalist alternative to the Mubarak model. This includes Ahmed Bahgat of Dreamland (also owner of the influential Dream television channel) and Naguib Sawiris, telecom billionaire and one of the wealthiest men in the Middle East, now claiming to have been appalled by the regime’s corruption all along. Capitalists with a conscience should have no fear of investigations over corruption, says Sawiris: “The only ones [sic] who have done wrong should worry… Someone like me definitely has no grounds to worry… If my country needs my help in any way, I provide it”.36

His optimism may be misplaced. A process of purging and cleansing is under way across the country, already claiming senior figures such as Adly, Cairo police chiefs involved in the baltagiyya offensive, and local officials arrested by the army. Numerous workforces have demanded removal of oppressive managers and officials of the state trade unions, the investigation of owners who have profited from privatisation deals, and re-nationalisation of former state enterprises. In mid-February a group of 40 strike leaders from a range of industries met to coordinate demands and to launch an independent trade union movement. Under the slogan “Revolution, freedom, social justice”, they presented a “workers’ programme”:

to unite the demands of striking workers that they may become an integral part of the goals of our revolution, which the people of Egypt made, and for which the martyrs shed their blood…which brings together our just demands, in order to reaffirm the social aspect of this revolution and to prevent the revolution being taken away from those at its base who should be its beneficiaries.37

The effectiveness of their campaign will be crucial to the revolutionary process. As Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists argued in their own statement of 6 February 2011: “The demonstrations and protests have played a key role… Now we need the workers”.38 The organisation called for the formation of revolutionary councils which combine economic and political demands.

Revolutions are invariably complex and lengthy processes. In the case of Iran, with which there are some striking similarities, protests which began in 1976 only took their full effect three years later with the fall of the Pahlavi regime. There were numerous episodes of advance and retreat of the students’ movement, the petty bourgeoisie of the bazaar, the clerical establishment, the national minorities and the peasantry, before sustained mass strikes expelled the shah. These struggles threw up a host of forms of social organisation including local committees and workplace groups, some taking on a proto-Soviet character before they were dispersed by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s offensive. There will be similar episodes in Egypt, as a movement initially animated by democratic demands addresses the possibility of further radical change—a generalisation of struggle that addresses the inequalities of the Mubarak era, the ownership of societal resources including industry and the land, and the problem of power wielded by the state itself. The entry of the workers gives cause to believe that the Egyptian Revolution is indeed “growing over” into a movement for wider and historic change—that a process of permanent revolution with global implications is under way.

Appendix 1

Statement of independent trade unionists meeting in Cairo, 19 February 2011

Revolution—Freedom—Social Justice: Demands of the workers in the revolution

O heroes of the 25 January revolution! We, workers and trade unionists from different workplaces which have seen strikes, occupations and demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of workers across Egypt during the current period, feel it is right to unite the demands of striking workers that they may become an integral part of the goals of our revolution, which the people of Egypt made, and for which the martyrs shed their blood. We present to you a workers’ programme which brings together our just demands, in order to reaffirm the social aspect of this revolution and to prevent the revolution being taken away from those at its base who should be its beneficiaries.

The workers’ demands which we raised before the 25 January revolution and were part of the prelude to this glorious revolution are:

1. Raising the national minimum wage and pension, and a narrowing of the gap between minimum and maximum wages so that the maximum is no more than 15 times the minimum in order to achieve the principle of social justice which the revolution gave birth to; payment of unemployment benefit, and a regular increment which will increase with rising prices.

2. The freedom to organise independent trade unions without conditions or restrictions, and the protection of trade unions and their leaders.

3. The right of manual workers and clerical workers, peasant farmers and professionals, to job security and protection from dismissal. Temporary workers must be made permanent, and dismissed workers be returned to their jobs. We must do away with all excuses for employing workers on temporary contracts.

4. Renationalisation of all privatised enterprises and a complete stop to the infamous privatisation programme which wrecked our national economy under the defunct regime.

5. Complete removal of corrupt managers who were imposed on companies in order to run them down and sell them off. Curbing the employment of consultants who are past the age of retirement and who eat up 3 billion of the national income, in order to open up employment opportunities for the young. Return to the enforcement of price controls on goods and services in order to keep prices down and not to burden the poor.

6. The right of Egyptian workers to strike, organise sit-ins, and demonstrate peacefully, including those striking now against the remnants of the failed regime, those who were imposed on their companies in order to run them down prior to a sell-off. It is our opinion that if this revolution does not lead to the fair distribution of wealth it is not worth anything. Freedoms are not complete without social freedoms. The right to vote is naturally dependent on the right to a loaf of bread.

7. Health care is a necessary condition for increasing production.

8. Dissolution of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation which was one of the most important symbols of corruption under the defunct regime. Execution of the legal judgements issued against it and seizure of its financial assets and documents. Seizure of the assets of the leaders of the ETUF and its member unions, and their investigation.

Translated from the Arabic by Anne Alexander

Appendix 2

Statement of the Revolutionary Socialists Egypt, Cairo, 6 February 2011

Glory to the martyrs! Victory to the revolution!

What is happening today is the largest popular revolution in the history of our country and of the entire Arab world. The sacrifice of our martyrs has built our revolution and we have broken through all the barriers of fear. We will not back down until the criminal “leaders” and their criminal system are destroyed.

Mubarak’s departure is the first step, not the last step of the revolution

The handover of power to a dictatorship under Omar Suleiman, Ahmed Shafiq and other cronies of Mubarak is the continuation of the same system. Omar Suleiman is a friend of Israel and America, spends most of his time between Washington and Tel Aviv and is a servant who is faithful to their interests. Ahmed Shafik is a close friend of Mubarak and his colleague in the tyranny, oppression and plunder imposed on the Egyptian people.

The country’s wealth belongs to the people and must return to them

Over the past three decades this tyrannical regime corrupted [sic] the country’s largest estates to a small handful of business leaders and foreign companies. 100 families own more than 90 percent of the country’s wealth. They monopolise the wealth of the Egyptian people through policies of privatization, looting of power and the alliance with capital. They have turned the majority of the Egyptian people to the poor, landless and unemployed.

Factories wrecked and sold dirt cheap must go back to the people

We want the nationalisation of companies, land and property looted by this bunch. As long as our resources remain in their hands we will not be able to completely get rid of this system. Economic slavery is the other face of political tyranny. We will not be able to cope with unemployment and achieve a fair minimum wage for a decent living without restoring the wealth of the people from this gang.

We will not accept to be guard dogs of America and Israel

This system does not stand alone. Mubarak as a dictator was a servant and client directly acting for the sake of the interests of America and Israel. Egypt acted as a colony of America, participated directly in the siege of the Palestinian people, made the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace free zones for warships and fighter jets that destroyed and killed the Iraqi people and sold gas to Israel, dirt cheap, while stifling the Egyptian people by soaring prices. Revolution must restore Egypt’s independence, dignity and leadership in the region.

The revolution is a popular revolution

This is not a revolution of the elite, political parties or religious groups. Egypt’s youth, students, workers and the poor are the owners of this revolution. In recent days a lot of elites, parties and so-called symbols have begun trying to ride the wave of revolution and hijack it from their rightful owners. The only symbols are the martyrs of our revolution and our young people who have been steadfast in the field. We will not allow them to take control of our revolution and claim that they represent us. We will choose to represent ourselves and represent the martyrs who were killed and their blood paid the price for the salvation of the system.

A people’s army is the army that protects the revolution

Everyone asks: “Is the army with the people or against them?” The army is not a single bloc. The interests of soldiers and junior officers are the same as the interests of the masses. But the senior officers are Mubarak’s men, chosen carefully to protect his regime of corruption, wealth and tyranny. It is an integral part of the system.

This army is no longer the people’s army. This army is not the one which defeated the Zionist enemy in October 1973. This army is closely associated with America and Israel. Its role is to protect Israel, not the people. Yes, we want to win the soldiers for the revolution. But we must not be fooled by slogans that ‘the army is on our side’. The army will either suppress the demonstrations directly, or restructure the police to play this role.

Form revolutionary councils urgently

This revolution has surpassed our greatest expectations. Nobody expected to see these numbers. Nobody expected that Egyptians would be this brave in the face of the police. Nobody can say that we did not force the dictator to retreat. Nobody can say that a transformation did not happen in Middan el Tahrir.

What we need right now is to push for the socio-economic demands as part of our demands, so that the person sitting in his home knows that we are fighting for their rights. We need to organise ourselves into popular committees which elect their higher councils democratically, and from below. These councils must form a higher council which includes delegates of all the tendencies. We must elect a higher council of people who represent us, and in whom we trust. We call for the formation of popular councils in Middan Tahrir, and in all the cities of Egypt.

Call to Egyptian workers to join the ranks of the revolution

The demonstrations and protests have played a key role in igniting and continuing our revolution. Now we need the workers. They can seal the fate of the regime, not only by participating in the demonstrations, but by organising a general strike in all the vital industries and large corporations.

The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon. Strike on the railways, on public transport, the airports and large industrial companies! Egyptian workers! On behalf of the rebellious youth, and on behalf of the blood of our martyrs, join the ranks of the revolution, use your power and victory will be ours!

Glory to the martyrs! Down with the system! All power to the people! Victory to the revolution!


1: Fisk, 2011.

2: Fisk, 2011.

3: See “Suez Strikes”-report of 12 February on the Arabawy blog:

4: Afify, 2011.

5: Mabahith Amn al-Dawla (General Directorate of State Security Investigations ), Jihaz Amn al-Dawla (State Security Service), Mukhabarat al-Aama (General Intelligence and Security Service), Mukhabarat al-Harbeya (Military Intelligence Service) and Jihaz al-Amn al-Qawmi (National Security Service).

6: Kassem, 2004, p7.

7: Tagammu’ contains the rump of the old Communist Party, officially dissolved by its own members in 1964 on the basis that Nasser had accomplished revolution in Egypt.

8: In Hussein, Al-Said and Al-Sayyid, 1999, p77.

9: In Hussein, Al-Said and Al-Sayyid, 1999, p77.

10: Howeidy, 2010.

11: Conversation with a leading Brotherhood activist, Cairo, January 2011.

12: For an insightful analysis of the contradictory character of the Brotherhood, see Naguib, 2009.

13: Howeidy, 2010.

14: El-Enani, 2010.

15: El-Enani, 2010.

16: Human Rights Watch, 1992, p128.

17: The targets were members of the underground organisations Islamic Jihad and Gama’at Islamiyya (Islamic Associations) that rejected the Brotherhood’s accommodation with the regime.

18: Report of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights quoted by Lorenz 1993.

19: Murphy, 2007.

20: EAAT, 2003.

21: Raghavan, 2011; see also The Week, 2011.

22: See, for example, his address of 1998, describing “crony capitalism” as the outcome of situations in which “the structure of ownership is not transparent, when regulation is inadequate and unevenly applied, when too many ad hoc decisions are taken, and when market forces are prevented from playing their normal disciplining role [and] serious imbalances and deadly inefficiencies can build up”-Camdessus, 1998.

23: Chomsky, 2008.

24: Chomsky, 2008.

25: For a terse account of key developments during this period see Marfleet, 2009.

26: Mustafa Khamis and Muhammed Hassan al-Baqari were executed in August 1952 for allegedly inciting riots at the Misr Textile Company in Kafr Al-Dawwar.

27: See Bush, 2009; also Abdel-Fadil, 1975, 1980; Baker, 1978.

28: Zaalouk, 1989, p41.

29: Henry and Springborg, 2001, p 155.

30: Sharp, 2009, pp27-29.

31: Combined figure for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Central Security-IISS, 2007, p223.

32: World Bank, 2007. This conservative figure fails to measure real levels of deprivation and the increasing pace of immiseration. See El-Naggar, 2009.

33: Economist, 2005.

34: El Mahdi, 2009.

35: Figures from the Land Centre for Human Rights, quoted in Beinin, 2009, p79.

36: Stier, 2011.

37: Full statement in Appendix 1.

38: Full statement in Appendix 2.


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