Socialist Worker

Mass protests push armed groups to the margins in Egypt

by Phil Marshall
Issue No. 1951

Women join a demonstration calling for greater democracy

Women join a demonstration calling for greater democracy

Bomb and gun attacks in Cairo at the end of April prompted warnings of a new Islamist offensive against tourists in Egypt. But this is unlikely to materialise. The political climate is changing fast — and not in favour of targeting tourists.

Underground groups like those that carried out the recent attacks increasingly appear irrelevant—they have little to say about mass action and democratic change.

In contrast, the Kifaya — “Enough” — movement has been at the centre of demands for political reform.

It organised protests in 14 cities two weeks ago—mostly met by thousands of riot police. Universities have seen student protests and judges have threatened to strike unless president Hosni Mubarak guarantees their independence.

Ten years ago Islamist organisations planned campaigns against foreigners to damage a government dependent on tourism. Most have since abandoned the strategy due to repression and because they failed to win ordinary Egyptians’ support.

The armed Islamist movement has become remote from the concerns of the mass of Egyptians, who face soaring unemployment, rising prices and shortages of basic foods. The regime’s privatisation strategy has collapsed and hundreds of factories in the country’s new industrial cities have closed.

The people’s anger is directed increasingly towards a corrupt and oppressive regime.

There is talk of a “Cairo Spring”, in which the democracy movement spreads from the activists to the mass of Egyptians.

Spring has not yet come but new forms of action are appearing daily, bringing together organisations from across the political spectrum — liberals, communists, nationalists, revolutionary socialists and the Islamists.

The recent bombing was a gesture — the serious action is taking place in the classrooms, workplaces and on the streets.

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Sat 14 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1951
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