The ideological battle between Egypt’s ruling generals and the activists leading the struggle to deepen the revolution in the streets and workplaces has entered a new phase.
The state-run media and Salafist TV stations have opened up a campaign against the Revolutionary Socialists (RS).
Salafist talkshow presenters attacked the RS for the leading role it played in the battle with the army and police in Mohammed Mahmoud Street in recent weeks. They accused the RS of being “anarchists who are funded by the CIA”.
This was followed by state-run Nile TV airing a clip from the video of a meeting held last week at the Centre for Socialist Studies in Giza.
At the meeting, leading RS activist Sameh Naguib argued that the Egyptian army and its state must be broken by the mass movement if the revolution is to succeed.
The mainstream media has focused its attack on this precisely this point. Such ideas challenge the generals and the remnants of the old regime’s political and security apparatus who are openly conspiring to return the old order to power.
But they also challenge the political forces which were in opposition before the revolution: the Islamists and liberals who are staking a claim to a bigger share of political power.
Influential political talk show host Mona el Shazli interviewed RS activist Hossam el Hamalawy on her programme “10pm” on Tuesday evening. She said, “Of course we understand that revolutions change regimes. But talk of ‘overthrowing the state’ goes much further. It is a crime.”
“If this is a conspiracy, then a large part of the Egyptian people want to take part in it,” El Hamalawy hit back.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by people calling from all over the country and wanting to join us. This is because the current institutions of the Egyptian state, including the Egyptian army, do not serve the Egyptian people.
“The army we see in Tahrir Square and in the provinces is cracking down on the sit-ins and demonstrations. This is an army which is torturing Egyptian men and women.
“People are saying ‘this is Mubarak’s army and not Egypt’s’. People should also think about who is getting $1.3 billion dollars a year in funding from America: the military council.”
The media campaign against the RS follows a well-established pattern. Previous media campaigns and threats of legal action targeted the 6 April Youth Movement, accusing the group of receiving foreign funding. The detention of blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah in the wake of the military massacre of Coptic Christian demonstrators and their supporters on 9 October is another example.
Over the last weekend there has been a relentless barrage of criticism against the protesters in Tahrir led by the state-run Egyptian media. But the independent media has been leading a counter-campaign against the smears.
The Tahrir newspaper summed it up in the single word headline: “Liars”, printed beside the picture of a young woman demonstrator being stripped of her clothes and dragged along the ground by soldiers. The paper was carried by women demonstrating against the attacks.
Student protests are also still mobilising big numbers. Thousands of Ain Shams university students began a sit-in on Wednesday outside the Ministry of Defence. They are calling for an immediate end to military rule and justice for their murdered fellow student, Alaa Abdel Hadi, who was killed by a sniper at the sit-in outside the Cabinet Offices last Friday.
Meanwhile the number of workers’ protests and strikes has begun to rise again, and some are taking a more radical turn as the economic crisis worsens.
Over the weekend hundreds of laid-off cement workers stormed the National Cement plant, demanding jobs.
Workers at five privatised soap and oil factories across the Delta have occupied, kicked out the old management and announced that the workers are returning the company to the public sector.
The Egyptian state exposed its brutality to the world last weekend. There are many sections within it which are itching to silence voices like those of Sameh Naguib and Hossam el Hamalawy.
But they have to take account of the movement in the streets and the university campuses, which is still too strong for them to crush easily.
However, it is the power of organised workers which will be crucial to the next stage of the battle between the mass revolutionary movement and the military council.
As Sameh Naguib put it at his meeting, “We need to organise mass strikes and general strikes which can shake the military from within, so that it shatters and falls. We need to win the ordinary soldiers and junior officers to the revolutionary project. On their own, the sit-ins in the squares are not enough.”