Egypt's second revolution for 'bread, freedom, justice'
The second Egyptian revolution which is firmly under way has swept millions into the new uprising against the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, whose regime has patently failed to solve any of the day-to-day problems of the masses.
Viewing the crisis in Egypt primarily as a conflict between the forces of Islam and secularism is mistaken. Like all religions, Islam provides a form of expression for the very poor who are otherwise unrepresented.
Although the target is the Muslim Brotherhood, the central issues are poverty, unemployment, corruption and deepening inequality. The Morsi government has failed on all these counts.
Millions of Egyptians are voting with their feet in every major city to rage against the Morsi government. Like their predecessors in 2011 they vow they will not leave the streets until the regime is gone.
Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, came to power after the 2011 February revolution which saw long-standing dictator Hosni Mubarak toppled. Turnout in the 2012 elections was low. Morsi won only 51% of the votes.
Egyptians are now rallying to the cause of Tamarod or “Rebel”, the newest political campaign to emerge in the country. So far its campaign calling for Morsi’s departure has attracted over 22 million signatures, quickly exceeding its young organisers’ target of 15 million.
Tamarod denounces Morsi as a total failure for not achieving the goals of the 2011 revolution – which were bread, freedom and social justice. He is castigated for “excluding the deprived” and not bringing justice for the revolution’s martyrs.
Economic and social security feature high on the list of grievances. Tamarod says it rejects Morsi “because we are still begging loans from the outside” and “because the economy has collapsed, and depends only on begging”.
Leading Egyptian economists warned in May that the country is suffering its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Egypt’s former finance minister Samir Radwan recently warned of a devastating effect on Egypt’s poorest people.
"You are talking about nearly half of the population being in a state of poverty. Either in absolute poverty or near-poor, meaning that with any [economic] shock, like with inflation, they will fall under the poverty line," he said.
The value of the Egyptian pound is plummeting as fuel and food prices soar. But taking on a proposed $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund requires political stability and draconian cuts in public spending.
Since Morsi’s election Egypt has seen rampant inflation with even the middle classes finding it impossible to cope economically. A quarter of Egypt’s youth are unemployed.
Thus, the aspirations that lay behind the historic overthrow of Mubarak have not been realised. Indeed, it is clear that neither the democratic nor the economic demands of the revolution can be achieved within the current political framework – in which the army still plays a central role – or by holding fresh elections.
Looking to Egypt’s armed forces for salvation, as many in Tahrir Square are presently doing, is equally a mistaken strategy. Dark forces in the military such as those of General Abdel al-Sisi are waiting in the wings.
Millions are rejecting Morsi because, like the provisional government of February 1917 in pre-Soviet Russia, it cannot deliver to those who overthrew the autocracy that preceded them. The global economic crisis, which is driving the new Egyptian revolution, makes further reforms impossible.
Liberals and pessimists are warning of the “dangers” of a second revolution. Yesterday’s Observer cautioned that Egyptians, “caught up in a storm of dissent degenerating into outright violence, may lose what gains they have made, and be swept backwards”.
This neo-colonial viewpoint is, as always, a defence of the status quo. Achieving “Bread, freedom and justice” requires revolutionary polices to end capitalism in Egypt. That means uniting poor farmers in the countryside, workers in the urban centres, the unemployed, professional people and respecting the rights of women, religious minorities and to freedom of expression.
A second revolution along these lines would inspire workers fighting capitalist austerity in every country to deal with their own rulers.
A World to Win secretary
1 July 2013