Socialists in Egypt spoke to Socialist Worker editor Judith Orr in Cairo about the new challenges they face
For the past two decades socialist and opposition groups in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have suffered fierce repression.
Activists faced prison and worse. At times only clandestine organisation was possible.
Revolutionary socialists have been involved in the revolution from the start.
It is a tribute to their courage, tenacity and politics that they held their organisation together. But Egyptian socialists have also been involved in a number of struggles.
They have been central to Palestine solidarity work, the anti-war movement and the Cairo conferences of 2002-2008.
Critically, in the years leading up to the revolution, they threw themselves into the youth protest movement and the rising tide of workers’ struggles that formed the core of resistance to Hosni Mubarak.
A new generation of socialists and activists have emerged and played a key role in the revolutionary process.
The 25 January “day of rage” was supposed to be a national holiday to celebrate the hated police.
Instead a coalition of youth groups, activists and political organisations, including revolutionary socialists, called protests across Egypt, sparking the revolution.
Facebook and Twitter did not make the revolution. Hard work from political organisations was essential in mobilising the bitterness in society.
Socialists have worked constantly to push the revolution forward—highlighting the relationship between political and economic struggles and how they can feed into one another.
The revolution has also thrown up new opportunities for socialists to organise.
One socialist, Mosi, told Socialist Worker, “Our most important argument is that this revolution is not finished.
“We fight for democratic reforms but we must also take up social reforms—like worker’s pay and unemployment.
“The strikes—across postal, steel and transport workers—show how this can be done.
“We are involved in those. But the situation is ambiguous because the unions are weak and until now been unable to work legally.”
It’s not yet possible for socialists to agitate completely in the open.
“Mubarak’s state apparatus remains,” added Mosi.
“Networks of informers, described by one activist as a spider’s web, need to be cleaned out.
“Even when we had impromptu meetings in Tahrir Square, secret police were around.
“One of the next steps we are calling for is the setting up of local committees to defend the revolution. These are to be organised by activists and leftists.”
Rashida told Socialist Worker that workers’ mobilisations have the potential to open up a new revolutionary phase.
“The revolution took place in the context of rising workers’ struggles,” she said.
“The strikes aren’t only about bringing down Mubarak—so getting rid of him won’t necessarily affect their momentum.
“The revolution may intensify workers’ independent struggles which can act to push the revolution forward.
“The demands of democracy, the repeal of emergency laws and investigation of the disappeared may calm the mass street protests for now.
“But workers look prepared to push on for their own economic demands.”
Wamukota added, “Also, we cannot predict how things will unfold.
“That has always been the case. We do know as socialists that we can grow exponentially in the current period.
“So far people are open to the idea of taking the revolution forward—I am optimistic that people will not want to stop at Mubarak.
“People have legitimate grievances—we have to find a way to discuss different demands and how they can be won.
“The regime’s corruption and wealth are out in the open.
“The glaring gap in income between the ruling elite and the mass of Egyptians is clear.
“To talk about equality and justice for the poor and workers makes sense to people now.
“Throughout this process we have stood in awe as the people in struggle collectively made the right decisions and called the shots.
“This is something we could not have imagined. Every day we started with anxiety about what would happen.
“Then each and every day people exceeded our expectations.”
Names have been changed to protect identities