Cairo’s Tahrir Square became a battlefield again on Friday of last week when masked commandoes from the Egyptian army waded into demonstrators with tasers, whips and sticks.
People had gathered to demand that the army council government speed up the pace of change after the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak last month.
After the attack on the square, one general apologised for the army’s actions on TV and on the social networking website Facebook—an unprecedented move.
The attack shows the army is trying to assert control, but so far it hasn’t been able to get away with it.
Army generals continue to call for all strikes and protests to stop, but the wave of strikes across Egypt is intensifying and spreading.
When the army arrested striking port workers in Suez last week, relatives protested and tried to free them. In response an army vehicle ran over and killed one woman relative.
Following this incident
revolutionary socialists issued a call to soldiers not to attack the protests.
It read, “We mustn’t forget that the generals allowed the thugs and elements from the police to attack the demonstrators in Tahrir Square on 2 February claiming that the army was ‘neutral’ in the struggle between the protesters and the government.
“These events [in Suez] reveal the truth, that the Supreme Military Council is the Council of Mubarak’s Generals, who have stolen millions of dollars of the people’s wealth—through their control of one third of the Egyptian economy via the companies which the military own in all industrial sectors from agriculture, to petrol stations, to roadside services, to manufacturing optical and electronic equipment and many other areas.
“That is why the slogans of the revolution for the coming period must be: ‘The people and the soldiers, one hand against Mubarak’s regime and his generals!’”
Politicians have visited Tahrir Square to try and claim some glory for the fight for democracy. Right wing US senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman were there last week.
But the revolution continues and workers are leading it.
New strikes, sit-ins and protests break out every day. The struggle is reaching the smallest workplaces and villages.
Villagers in Nadha, Amriya, have protested about carbon emissions from a factory that they say is making them ill.
School students have marched and demanded their exams get postponed because of the revolution.
Women with relatives in prison have protested outside courts for visiting rights.
Many strikes are over demands for a minimum wage. Some also call for a company maximum wage and the ousting of corrupt bosses. And there are victories.
Workers at Ghazl El-Mahalla, the largest spinning and textile company won all the demands of their recent three-day strike.
The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which was allied with the Mubarak regime, has denounced the strikes and has joined the army in asking workers to stop protesting.
The secretary general of the federation, Ibrahim El-Azhari said, “Most of the protests are asking for wage rise, or the removal of chairmen and so on. This is a kind of extremism,”
Such statements only spur on workers who are setting up new, independent unions, including post office employees, public transport workers and nurses.