By Mahmoud Ezzat
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Egypt: tactics for a revolution in retreat

This article is over 9 years, 5 months old
Issue 392

“We have seen a massive turnout at the polls culminate in Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s election as president with 93 percent of the vote in the midst of massive popular celebrations.”

This is the picture which the counter-revolution’s media is falsely presenting to summarise the presidential elections.

The reality is more complex. It is necessary for revolutionaries at every moment of the struggle, whether during a period of upturn or retreat, to analyse the situation and set the tactics needed to advance towards revolution, and towards building the revolutionary party.

Such steps may be measured in inches or miles, depending on the objective situation. Is the movement rising? Should we push out and raise demands of the working class?

Or are we in a period of frustration and inactivity, under attack from the authoritarian laws while the masses are hostile and resistance is weak?

We have to assess Sisi’s election and come to an analysis in order to decide on the correct tactics.

The idea that Sisi has swept to victory by winning the hearts of the people on a huge scale is contradicted by the fact that the regime had to use every trick to turn out the vote. The propaganda campaign told people that failure to participate would mean that “the nation will be lost”.

Religious edicts made boycott “a sin”, polling day was declared a national holiday and voting was extended for a third day, while non-voters were threatened with huge fines. All this unfolded in a state of confusion, with polling stations empty as voters abstained and popular enthusiasm for “a mandate” drained away.

The empty polling stations do not represent a victory for the boycott campaign. Those who boycotted are a broad constituency – which includes Islamist organisations who refused to recognise the elections under the pretext that they run counter to “Morsi’s legitimacy”.

However, the boycott camp also includes a large section of the masses who have lost confidence in their ability to change things, and who feel that the ballot box does not express their interests.

This disillusioned bloc of non-voters includes some of those who supported Sisi, as well as those who took part in the revolution. It was their frustrations that led them to withdraw from politics.

The danger here is that the large size of this bloc is not in the interests of the revolution, contrary to what the Islamists are claiming. The opposite is true.

The best thing for the dictatorship to be able to impose its repressive laws is to encounter a state of surrender and frustration.

This bloc was born out of frustration and it will return to the political scene once it finds a genuine alternative.

As for the section of the masses which voted, the vast majority backed the counter-revolution. However, this camp is also fragile and full of contradictions.

A section is composed of the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, businessmen, figures from Mubarak’s regime and other elements of the counter-revolution. It also includes sections of workers and peasants.

It would be logical for them to support the revolution, but because of the revolution’s inability to win, or offer solutions, they have turned against it and chosen the illusion of stability.

This bloc may fracture internally once a devastating social crisis exposes Sisi’s claim to be their saviour. These fractures could lead to further frustration among these workers and peasants, or could turn them in the direction of change.

Of course, we will also continue to see a reactionary bloc of Sisi’s voters. The continuation of this bloc is linked to a number of factors including the depth of the crisis and its impact on the cohesion of the ruling class, the presence of political parties and their impact on workers and peasants.

The last section of the masses which chose to go to the polls with the aim of voting against the counter-revolution, however small, has not surrendered to frustration and has not been influenced by the regime’s propaganda.

Rather it chose to enter a difficult and uneven contest, and is trying hard to work against the counter-revolution by voting against its candidate.

At this stage, this bloc represents the vanguard of the revolution, despite the contradictions between reformists and revolutionaries. The principal battle now is to work towards unity with revolutionaries who boycotted the elections. We need to consolidate a nucleus for the opposition and build a united front of all the revolutionary forces and the reformist left.

This bloc, which is striving to create an opposition front, needs to raise clear slogans on issues of freedoms for political detainees and an end to the anti-protest law, as well against austerity and the unfair distribution of wealth. It needs to be free to put forward an analysis on every issue.

It is important that this bloc works to exploit every available space, no matter how small, to expand its base and to make progress against the counter-revolution. These spaces might be in local or parliamentary elections, the trade unions and elsewhere, in order to win the biggest section of the masses to revolutionary ideas.

We do not want to convince them that winning seats in the local councils or parliament is the way to change.

The candidate of the counter-revolution, who will hold power in a few days time, does not have an economic programme which is in the interests of the poor or the implementation of social justice. These factors will assist our work.

Sisi’s regime will face deep economic crises from which it will not be able to escape except through job cuts and by impoverishing millions of people.

Austerity will affect every sector through cuts in subsidies and wages, reduction in spending on health and education – all under the domination of an authoritarian regime.

The battle now is to preserve the revolutionary bloc, however weak it is at this moment, and to build the revolutionary party and revolutionary fronts.

Despite the weakness of these groups at the moment, they are the essential nucleus to build on and expand in preparation for the next wave of the revolution.

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