The Third International after Lenin

Monday, January 24, 2011

"From Rabat to Riyadh"

Solidarity with workers of Egypt

The antigovernment protests sweeping a number of countries in the Arab world are the inevitable response to the capitalist crisis, as workers, peasants, and youth demand relief from unemployment, high prices, and government repression by authoritarian regimes unable to offer any future.

The capitalist government of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, like his counterparts in other parts of the world, is completely dependent on Washington and London for its survival. It is incapable of leading any course out of the unequal trade, plunder of resources, and superexploitation of labor that defines Egypt’s relations with these imperialist powers. Lacking popular support, the regime’s only response is armed might.

U.S. President Barack Obama said February 1 that he defends “the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech,” and “free and fair elections.” Addressing himself to the “people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt,” he said, “We hear your voices.” But in response to their insistent demand that Mubarak step down now, he calls for “an orderly transition” in the regime.

U.S. workers should stand in solidarity with the anti-Mubarak protesters—“U.S. hands off!” Washington has no right to decide anything about the future of Egypt.

The working class is coming onto the scene through the unfolding battles in the Arab world. Space is opening up to organize, debate, be active in politics, and link up with other workers worldwide. Whatever the immediate outcome, the capitalist regimes there can no longer simply deny all freedom of speech, assembly, and press. Working people have gotten a taste of their power when united in action. They can move confidently on from here.

No revolutionary, working-class parties exist in either Tunisia or Egypt today. But it’s through mass struggles that break the shackles of intimidation and fear erected by these dictatorships that workers can begin to forge a leadership of their own and a course toward the fight for power.


Tunisian gov’t fails to quell protests
(front page)

Two weeks after mass demonstrations forced Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and many of his relatives to flee the country, the acting government has been unsuccessful in quelling protests by working people and youth.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced a new reshuffling of the cabinet on January 27, removing the hated foreign, defense, and interior ministers. At least three former officials of Ben Ali’s regime still hold key roles in the “transitional” government, including Ghannouchi, interim president Foued Mebazaa, and foreign minister Ahmed Ounais. Ghannouchi has pledged new elections in six months.

The government previously announced a series of measures aimed at placating protesters: cheaper transport fees and a small monthly stipend for unemployed college graduates; compensation for families of those killed by the cops during the uprising; and dissolution of the agency that was in charge of censorship.

The Spanish daily El País reports that tens of thousands demonstrated January 26 in the port city of Sfax demanding Ghannouchi resign. That same day workers in Sidi Bousid, where the protests against Ben Ali began, held a one-day general strike. Strikers chanted, “Kick out the corrupt ones.” Similar rallies were held in Mahdia, Thala, Kasserine, and Selian, according to the Tunisian daily Le Temps.

Workers around the country are organizing unions, often outside the structures of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the only legal union federation during the dictatorship. The federation at first opposed but then joined the demonstrations that led to Ben Ali’s overthrow.

While the national UGTT leaders have not accepted positions in the cabinet, they are supporting Ghannouchi. UGTT official Abed Briki told El País that “now is not the time to remove the directors of government bodies because we need to preserve stability.”

Le Temps reports that construction workers demonstrated outside the Tunisian national television offices in Tunis carrying signs demanding a wage increase, the right to social security coverage, and the right to organize a union.

Hundreds of deaf and hearing-impaired people demonstrated January 27 demanding the creation of special schools for the deaf and public accommodations to meet their needs.

The following day riot police used tear gas to clear out the 24-hour sit-in in front of Ghannouchi’s office that had been demanding his resignation. The protesters came to the capital as part of a “liberation caravan” that traveled from the central part of the country the week before.

The government has tried to gain support from middle class forces, appealing to fears about social and economic instability. Shopkeeper Choukri Benzekri told Reuters he had confidence in the transitional government. “We waited 23 years,” he said. “We can wait six months for this government to organize an election.”

But the protests continue, taking on more and more social questions. On January 29 women marched through Tunis to demand equal rights. Several hundred people also marched in the capital the previous day demanding freedom of religion and the repeal of anti-terrorism laws.

More than 1 million Tunisians live outside the country because of the lack of jobs in Tunisia. In spite of one of the highest per capita incomes in the Arab world, unemployment among youth is as high as 40 percent.

Solidarity demonstrations with the Tunisian people have taken place around the world, including in Geneva, Paris, Ottawa, and New York. In Tunis protesters gathered outside the Egyptian embassy backing the struggle in Egypt for the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak regime.


Back workers’ struggles in Egypt

Working people in Egypt have lived for decades under brutal regimes backed by a powerful military and supported by Washington.

Since coming to power nearly 30 years ago, President Hosni Mubarak has extended the dictatorial rule that preceded him. Masses of Egyptian people have no ownership rights. They have been denied freedom of speech, press, and assembly. Police brutality and torture are widespread. Workers have not been allowed to form independent unions or organize political parties. Even capitalist parties with slight differences from the regime have not had much room to function.

Pushed to the wall by the regime and forced to bear the devastating effects of the worldwide economic and social crisis of capitalism—including high unemployment and rising prices—working people of Egypt are rebelling against these conditions. Their struggle is an inspiration to toilers worldwide.

For now Washington is sticking with the Mubarak regime, with or without Mubarak himself. If that fails, the U.S. rulers and their junior partners in Egypt will try to cobble together an alternative government from among the military hierarchy, bourgeois opposition, and whatever they can salvage from the Mubarak regime to continue ruling for the benefit of the capitalist exploiters in Egypt and abroad.

What is opening up for the toiling masses of Egypt is a working-class alternative to this, the opportunity to begin organizing for a government in their own interests. There is space now to call meetings in factories, neighborhoods, and farming villages and elect spokespeople; to defend working people against the bosses and their repressive forces; and to establish communication with others who are fighting.

Working people need councils—popular committees of the toiling population—starting from the local level on up. This would be the beginning of a working-class alternative government, in opposition to all the options promoted by imperialism and capitalist forces in Egypt under the guise of “reform.” The experiences Egyptian working people and youth are going through today are paving the way for rebuilding unions, forging a revolutionary proletarian party, and fighting along the working-class line of march toward political power.

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