More than 300 people packed into a Socialist Workers Party meeting in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution in central London last night.
The electric meeting was addressed by Tunisian socialist Mohammed, Egyptian socialist Wasim, Socialist Worker editor Judith Orr and writer Tariq Ali.
It was opened by a presentation of photographs of Tahrir Square by photographer Jess Hurd and video from journalist Jason Parkinson.
Mohammed spoke of his experiences in Tunisia during the revolution. He said, “I stopped following Tunisian politics because it felt like nothing was happening, then suddenly there were 100,000 people on the streets of Tunis. Six hours after I arrived in Tunis, Ben Ali was on a plane to Saudi Arabia.
“I was part of the defence committees, and saw how people can organise themselves.
“The ruling class have tried to stop the momentum of the revolution and filled the government full of clients of the old regime. But people have protested again and forced local governors to resign.
“In the coming days and weeks there will be crucial questions, particularly around the question of the UGTT general union. And of course, the success of the Egyptian revolution and how it deepens and spreads.”
The meeting room was rammed, with people sitting on the floor and even behind the stage.
Wasim’s stories of the humanity and dignity of the Egyptian revolution had the crowd captivated. He spoke of “men and women chiselled out of the hardest granite, with hearts soft and warm like peaches”.
He had just arrived back in London that afternoon and told the meeting, “I come to you from the freest place on earth—Tahrir Square.
“I left the people there dancing, singing, discussing politics and as steadfast as ever. I have seen the germs of a new society in miniature.
“On Sunday, the Christian mass was surrounded and protected by Muslims, and on the Friday, the Christians protected Muslims as they prayed. On Friday the imam said, ‘give courage to our men’, and for the first time, I heard an imam say, ‘and to our women.”
“There is political discussion everywhere. Politics stopped being that thing out there, far away, that people in governments decide and has become the air that they, the men and women on the streets of Egypt, breathe.
“Peasants, workers, students, doctors, lecturers—everyone discusses together. They can create a better society and they know it.
“I have seen the courage of people in front of army tanks. The army wanted to close Tahrir Square but people lay down all around the tanks. A single inch of the square has become such a symbol of liberation and freedom and they would give their lives to save it.
“They are winning, victory to the Egyptian revolution!”
The meeting rose to its feet in rapturous applause.
Judith Orr, who has also been to Cairo during the revolution, spoke next.
“The people of Egypt have endured 30 years of repression and corruption,” she said. “In some ways they have been waiting for this to happen, while still surprising themselves at what they have done.
“People have endured tear gas, live bullets and water cannon. These people are you and me.
“Revolutions aren’t a one day event, look at Russia in 1917—February to October before the workers’ organisations were deeply established and took control.
“They know the stakes: the question on the streets is ‘stay or die’. This revolution shows the potential for humanity, what can blossom—the generosity of spirit, the humour and the quick changing of ideas.
“Women in full niqab, hijab, and neither are playing a huge role in this. If they win they will not just change the history of Egypt or the Middle East, but the history of the world.
“They are our brothers and sisters and we have stand with them by showing our solidarity with their struggle but also by fighting to bring down our own government here.”
Tariq Ali said, “Mubarak’s family assets are though to be $40 billion. This is money stolen from the Egyptian people.
“Some say he should be replaced by Suleiman. He is a torturer—he does not just order torture but is directly responsible for the torture of people arrested by the Egyptian state security forces.
“The counter-revolution is alive, and there is a lot at stake. If Mubarak had some intelligence he would leave of his own accord.
“The importance of organisation is vital. We have to match the level of mobilisation with that of organisation.
“When the people of Alexandria controlled the city for over eight hours, what a difference it would have made to have a thousand people to argue that they should run the city for themselves, on their own terms.”