The Egyptian revolution is in progress. It is a momentous event. The protests have the potential not just to bring down a dictator, but to transform the balance of power between the rich and poor across the globe.
Revolution is a process “from below”, engaging the active involvement of millions.
According to the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, “The history of a revolution is for us first of all the history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.”
As more than a million people took to the streets of Cairo on Tuesday, that description came alive.
All real progress in history comes when people collectively take action.
In Egypt we are seeing an explosion, a “festival of energy”, where old hierarchies are challenged or collapse. This process makes huge leaps in people’s consciousness possible.
So it is not just the fear of the police and Mubarak in Egypt that has gone, but the habit of subordination that capitalist society puts on us.
Groups of factory workers leading mass demonstrations in Suez to confront and beat back the police reflect this, and show what is possible.
The other side of this is the collapse in confidence of the ruling class, which can lead to divisions at the top.
Those divisions can spread, which is one reason why Western leaders are so terrified.
A key part of how the revolution develops will depend on the role of organised workers. During the process of revolution, working class people can develop new institutions rooted in their everyday lives. These challenges can replace the power of existing top-down authorities.
Workers need independent organisation and to advance their own demands. The beginning of that process appears to be under way across Egypt.
Factories in Cairo and other places have seen workers sack their bosses.
The neighbourhood defence committees that have sprung up to defend working class areas show the potential for popular street democracy to develop into workers’ self-organisation.
On the other side there are those who will fight to defend the old order. There are many others, including Western leaders, who would see Mubarak go, but the institutions of the regime remain. That means that there is the possibility of both repression and limiting change.
The strength and development of workers’ self-organisation is the best defence of the revolution—and the clearest mechanism for deepening and carrying through the revolution to a new stage.
The struggle in Egypt should be an inspiration to all of us that we can change the world if we resist and get organised.
Then the strongest dictator can be brought down and apparently calm societies transformed. That is a lesson for all of us.
Protest at the Egyptian embassy, 26 South Street, London, W1Y 6DD.
This Fri 4 Feb, 4pm to 7pm
Come to Socialist Worker forum with Tariq Ali, Egyptian activist Wassim Wagdy, Judith Orr and a Tunisian speaker. Wed 9 Feb, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ