Socialist Worker

Egypt's protests rock the regime

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2236

Mass protests took over the streets of Egypt yesterday—in Alexandria, Suez, the capital Cairo and other parts of the country.

Protests will continue today—this is the next stage of the revolt against the Middle East’s dictators which was triggered by the Tunisian revolution.

Thousands of people chanted slogans to “bring down Mubarak”— the country’s dictator who has ruled with brutality and repression since 1981.

Many in the mainstream media claim that the protests are unprecedented in the country but this is not the case.

The demonstrations yesterday, started by anger at rising food prices, corruption and repression, are a continuation of the democracy, anti-imperialist and strike movements that have been a feature of Egyptian society since 2001. The movement has been through many phases.

In 2004 hundreds of thousands protested against the occupations of Iraq and Palestine and to demand an end to Mubarak’s regime. The Muslim Brotherhood called these protests—it is the main opposition movement and can mobilise people onto the streets.

Along with the Muslim Brotherhood, the rich tradition of the left and Arab nationalism has been central to the development of the resistance.

From 2006 to 2008 the textile workers of Mahalla, in the north of the country, struck. The workers faced the conservatism of their union leaders and heavy state repression. They occupied their factories and stood their ground.

Although they were not followed by other workers around the country, their struggle helped to give a confidence and reignited the tradition of workers' militancy. Yesterday those same workers joined the protests, bringing others with them.

The role of the workers in Egypt will be crucial to the struggle ahead.

Yesterday, protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo refused to move and occupied it until the early hours of the morning. Then the police moved in, firing US-made tear gas at the crowd and firing rubber bullets into the air.

The crowd fought back but were eventually dispersed. People have vowed to continue the protests, and more are organised for this afternoon.

News reports claim that at least four people have been killed in the protests—three activists and a policeman.

Friday will be crucial. It will matter how many people come out onto the streets and go to the mosque. It will matter what is said by the mosque leaders and what the Muslim Brotherhood encourage its supporters to do.

It is unclear where this recent wave of protests will end up—but the influence of Tunisia on events across the region cannot be underestimated. The coming days in Egypt will not only be crucial for the radical change in that country, but across the Middle East.

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