Opposition to Israel’s war on Gaza has exposed the shortcomings of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition movement in Egypt, according to socialist activists in the country.
Two of them spoke to Socialist Worker about why the Brotherhood held back from calling mass protests against the Egyptian regime’s complicity in the Israeli assault.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has not been calling mass demonstrations, although they are potentially very powerful,” Yehia said. “Despite a membership of some one million people, the party has been too timid in calling people out into the streets.
“This decision is because of the influence of conservative forces among the Brotherhood’s membership. Its social base is mixed – it is made up of rich peasants, the middle class, the urban poor and some wealthy families.
“The contradictions inside the organisation reflect the different interests of these classes. So during the Gaza offensive the opposition party did call protests – but quickly wound them up. The only substantial demonstration was in Alexandria, where over 50,000 turned out.
“Although this was one of the biggest protests for many years, it left many people asking why the Brotherhood did not call a series of mass demonstrations – especially in Cairo.
“This has left many of its ordinary members confused. One section of the party wants to go into the streets, while the other fears the reaction of the regime.”
Yasser, another activist, added, “The siege of Gaza has deepened the mood of anger and frustration in the country. This has created an environment in which the left can work.
“Hosni Mubarak’s regime was able to weather the anger over its role in the war, but he has been shown to be weak and isolated from ordinary people.”
But it was last year’s strike wave that began in the industrial city of Mahalla that was the key to transforming the popular mood against the regime.
“The Mahalla strikes proved that opposition to the regime ran wider than a few activists or students,” said Yasser. “It has exposed the deep frustration among Egyptian workers.”