Egypt was the very first Third World state to embark on wholesale policies of privatisation.
After 30 years these have failed dismally.
This failure has left millions impoverished and increasingly prepared to take action in defence of jobs, land and political rights.
In 1974, even before “Thatcherism” and “Reaganomics”, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat introduced “infitah”—the opening up of the Egyptian economy.
He aimed to encourage foreign capital into Egypt, allowing multinationals to invest and take all they could in profit.
He also boosted local businessmen, so that within a few years Egyptians spoke of the “Sadat class” — the “fat cats” who have since become an integral part of the Egyptian regime.
Infitah produced rocketing prices and mass unemployment.
There were mass protests, peaking in January 1977 with a vast movement of opposition known as the “bread riots”. The Egyptian state used the army to crush the movement.
Sadat’s successor Hosni Mubarak inherited this strategy. Since Mubarak came to power in 1981 he has used extreme force against every form of protest.
The Egyptian regime has some three million men in uniform. Over 500,000 are members of the riot police, a force dedicated to intimidation, torture and abuse in defence of the state.
For more on the growing revolt in Egypt and across the Middle East, read the latest issue of the International Socialism journal.