People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 52

December 25, 2011


Egypt Erupts Again


R Arun Kumar


THOUSANDS of people, majority of whom are women, filled the streets of Cairo on December 20, in protest against the beating of female protesters by the ruling military during clashes in and around the city's Tahrir Square. The rally was called after Egyptian security forces clashed with demonstrators that left 14 people dead and more than 900 others injured since December 16. The clashes sparked condemnation against the military, particularly after one incident in which two Egyptian soldiers were filmed dragging a woman protester on the ground by her shirt, exposing her underwear, then clubbing and stomping on her body.


While the images of the as yet unidentified woman who was stripped and beaten have caused the most outrage, there were numerous other incidents of women protesters being beaten or dragged by their hair that are equally shocking. Many women who have been arrested by the army have also alleged that they were molested while in custody and beaten while captive.


Egyptian military and police have lashed out at young protesters over the past several days with vengeance. Protesters have been camping in front of the Ministry building since the Tahrir protests of November, with the unsatisfactory appointment of Mubarak's erstwhile colleague, Kamal Ganzouri as prime minister, but also because they want the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to immediately hand over power to a civilian government. They are demanding a government out of the military control and which listens to the grievances of the people.




The way in which the military and police responded to protesters was uniquely cruel. According to a report from Al Jazeera, “members of the Sixth of April Movement, one of the key youth groups that participated in the Revolution, were called out by policemen by name in the midst of a clash in Tahrir. Videos of soldiers dragging young women through the streets have since circulated, along with images of soldiers with their guns aimed at civilians running into Tahrir Square in large groups. Eyewitnesses stood helplessly as soldiers beat three protesters and threw them into the Nile. In one of the most provoking incidents, an Azhar Scholar, Emmad Effat, was killed by gunshot in what observers say was a very clear case of a targeted murder”.


The State media acting as cohorts to the SACF is propagating blatant lies. On December 18, the State media reported that the Institute of Egypt, a historical research centre housing rare documents in Tahrir Square, had been burned down by protesters, who were referred to as ‘thugs'. A columnist of Al Jazeera who was present at the Tahrir square writes, “In stark contrast, those who were at the building could attest for the police standing atop the building throwing Molotov bombs and ‘fire balls' at the protesters below, while their colleagues sprayed water at protesters out of the building's windows. When protesters responded with Molotov bombs of their own, the building caught fire. Some protesters rushed into the building in an effort to save what they could of the books, while the police took the hoses that they had aimed at protesters minutes earlier and deserted the scene without an attempt of putting out the fire”.


The people of Egypt, witness to what is happening in their country, are refusing to buy the arguments of the SACF and are increasingly becoming aware of its nefarious designs. On December 17, eight members of the Advisory Council, unwilling to sell their consciousness to the military elite, resigned in condemnation of the use of force against protesters. Some of the newly elected MPs joined the protesters in solidarity and some to make an effort to use their public position to bring calm. The most prominent feature during these protests is the distinct absence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi parties, the larger victors of the first round elections. They have till date not yet made any known effort to end the bloodshed in Tahrir.


Ironically, amidst the increasing protests and attacks on the protesters, the second round of voting took place on December 21. The effect of the protests and the unhappiness of the populace can be understood from their lack of enthusiasm in this round, as the long lines outside polling centres seen in previous rounds were completely absent. A third and final round is to be held in early January. The ruling military has decided on a complex election system in which voters cast ballots for party lists, which will comprise two thirds of parliament, and also for individual candidates for the remaining third of the lower house.




There is a serious discontent growing among a section of the population and protesters who recognise the significance of the political moment and refuse to let the lives lost for the sake of democratic governance go waste. The SACF does not have the national interest at heart to establish the basis for a durable, democratic government. This is, of course, natural as the establishment of a real 'democratic government' is inimical to the interests of the ruling classes in Egypt and also the international finance capital.


As has been stated many times, the protests in Egypt (or for that matter in West Asia/North Africa) are basically an expression of the peoples' anger against the dictatorial regimes and also the economic hardships imposed by those regimes, which were compounded by the current economic crisis. Hence, the majority of the common people, especially the working class, looked at the regime change as only a partial fulfilment of their demands. It is for this reason that they had continued their protests even after the fall of the regime. Many of the people who were hopeful of some positive change after the collapse of the former government, were soon disillusioned, as the huge protest demonstrations testify.


The SACF and the ruling class/imperialist interests it represents, wanted to confine ‘democracy' to its narrow meaning of ‘right to votes, elections and parliament'. These rights and institutes are, of course, important but they on their own do not usher ‘real democracy'. Real democracy means respecting the wishes of the people, taking them into confidence and involving them in decision making. The concept of real democracy engulfs the political, social and economic arenas of the society, where the people involve themselves in their day-to-day activity. In a society where real democracy exists, there will be no gap between the people and the government, both of them stand for each other. It is because of this inclusive nature that the ruling classes do not want the people to enjoy ‘real democracy'. They want to confine it to its liberal, bourgeois meaning – right to vote, elections and elected representatives who would legislate for them.




Democracy, much wider and inclusive than that we experience in the bourgeois societies is recently put into practice in Cuba. The ruling Communist Party and the government before proceeding to change their economic policy, drew a draft proposal, postponed their Party Congress and put them before the entire people of the country seeking their opinions. From December 1, 2010 to February 28, 2011, close to nine million people participated in more than 163,000 meetings in which over three million contributed with their opinions and suggestions. The Communist Party and the government not only just ‘heard' these opinions, but acknowledged, recognised and considered many of their suggestions. No wonder Cuba is a socialist country. Ironically, the bourgeois and the imperialist forces call this ‘dictatorship', while its allies Mubarak, Ben Ali and princes of Saudi Arabia and the current military rulers in Egypt are democracies!


The ruling classes in Egypt are not much concerned with the military control over the government or Muslim Brotherhood heading it, as they are confident that both of them would protect their interests. Compared to the worker and common people on the street, Muslim Brotherhood/Salafist parties, after all, do not threaten their hegemony! Their relation is also not something new. In fact, even during the regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali, the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to function – the official opposition – while the progressive forces like the trade unions and communist parties are banned. One of the reasons for the good show of these parties in the recent elections is a result of their well entrenched organisational machinery that was allowed to remain, an advantage which the progressive forces definitely lacked due to their proscription. Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is reciprocating this generosity by keeping away from the streets now.


The burdened working class of Egypt, thirsting for an alternate that eases its burden, is determined to fight and is now on the streets. Experience shows that real democracy can be won only by consistent struggles, as the people of Egypt are now realising. The struggles have to be continued and intensified involving more number of people. Extending our solidarity, let us hope Tahrir (Liberation) stands up to its name and reputation.