Thousands of students across Egypt last week confronted riot police as part of the growing wave of protests demanding democratic reforms.
Over 4,000 students marched through the al-Azhar Univeristy in Cairo, and over 1,000 demonstrated at Cairo’s Ain al-Shams and Helwan universities.
The protests spread to the Nile Delta universities of Kafr al-Sheikh and Mansoura. Some 800 students at the elite American University of Cairo confronted police and chanted slogans against poverty and George Bush.
The protests come after a key meeting of students at the recent third annual Cairo Conference. This brought together anti-war and anti-globalisation activists from across the Arab world, Europe and north America.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Arab nationalists and left wing student organisations agreed to cooperate to oppose to the regime.
A new campaign called Kifaya — “enough” in Arabic — is demanding the end of Hosni Mubarak’s reign as president and opposes plans to nominate his son as the next president.
Resistance in the countryside and among workers is also growing. The regime has repealed 50 year old land reforms. This move has encouraged former landowning families to “reclaim” their old property.
There have been battles in Egyptian villages between peasants and landowners supported by the riot police and the army.
At Sarandu in the Nile Delta, workers and democracy activists have supported dispossessed peasants.
There has been a rise in the number of strikes and factory occupations.
The growing unrest in Egypt has significance far beyond the Middle East. Protests of workers, peasants and democracy activists have thrown down a challenge to Mubarak — and to neo-liberal globalisers everywhere.
When in March 2003 over 50,000 people occupied the main square in Cairo in protest against war in Iraq, the regime hesitated. Uncertain about the consequences of more brute force, it lost control.
The lesson has not been forgotten. Now workers defending their jobs, and peasants organising against seizure of their land, have found common cause with the anti-war and democracy movements.
The US, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are all worried. With their encouragement, Mubarak spoke of making Egypt a booming business-friendly economy throughout the 1990s.
The project has collapsed. Privatisation is discredited, hundreds of factories have closed, and in less than five years the Egyptian currency’s value against the dollar has halved.
Prices of basic foods have risen. Many poor families find difficulty buying bread and “fuul” — the beans which are Egyptians’ staple diet. Reports from across the country speak of fights for bread.
Egypt has been a laboratory for the globalisers and privateers. Their experiment has been conducted at a huge cost to the majority of Egypt’s people.
We can all learn the lessons — and build global solidarity for Egypt’s movement for change.