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Struggle from below drives Egypt’s revolt

This article is over 10 years, 9 months old
Issue 2360

The Egyptian masses have shown, once again, that they have the power to shake the rich and powerful. 

Egypt’s great revolutionary movement began with demands for “bread, freedom and social justice” when an uprising overthrew hated dictator 

Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

These demands are still ringing from cities, towns and villages across Egypt in perhaps the biggest revolutionary movement seen in history. 

This shocked some commentators who declared the revolution over when Muslim Brotherhood supporter Mohamed Mursi was elected president a year ago.

But revolutions are a process that can go on for years. 

The Muslim Brotherhood was the most rooted and established opposition organisation in Egypt. 

Its supporters had suffered decades of repression. 

Many hoped it would represent the interests of ordinary Egyptians.

Instead Mursi and the Brotherhood’s neoliberal millionaires pursued their own interests.

Unemployment is up, prices of basic foodstuffs are rising and the value of the Egyptian pound is falling. 

In a country where a quarter of the population spends half of its meagre income on food, this has a devastating impact. 

Under Mursi protests have been met with violence from the police and security forces.

His solution to the economic crisis is to court the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

But the conditions of any IMF loan include a commitment to cut government subsidies on basics like food and fuel.

The mass revolt comes from people’s anger that their lives haven’t improved—and that Mursi was prepared to allow too much of Mubarak’s Egypt to remain.

These protests are not about Islamism. Many religious Muslims and former Mursi voters are on the protests. They are about the unmet demands of the revolution.

 The slogan, “The army and the people are one hand” has reappeared. It reflects illusions that the army can defend the revolution.

Attitudes to the army in Egypt are full of contradictions. 

They are seen as protectors of the people yet they have big business interests. The army owns between 10 and 45 percent of the economy. 

But the experience of the repressive Supreme Council of the Armed Forces government after Mubarak’s fall is still fresh for many. They argue against trusting the army.

These debates are raging in streets, squares and workplaces across Egypt this week. 

Ordinary people in Egypt have become the subjects of history and are fighting to shape their own future.

The lesson of the revolutionary years since 2011 is that the struggle has always been driven forward from below.

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