Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT)
Egypt will hold a referendum on its newly-drafted constitution on January 14thand 15th. The vote will be the first stage of what it is called the political “road map” outlined by the Egyptian army after it overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, on 3rdJuly 2013. While we in the RCIT opposed Morsi’s rule and supported the progressive mass protests against him, wetotally opposedhis removal by the army. He was deposed by the army because the US and the Egyptian generals couldn’t trust him to put down the popular revolution.
Egypt’s Military Dictatorship receives support by Israel and the US
The role of the Egyptian army in the service of the imperialist order in the region can be learned from the Israeli government:“Israel has urged the US to back the Egyptian military, saying losing Egypt to Islamists could pose a risk to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, The Wall Street Journal reportedonMonday. According to an Israeli official quoted by the paper, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have traditionally played an important role in providing the Palestinians support to stay in the negotiations and to make concessions, and without them there is a chance the talks will fail.”(1)
Consistent with this, note that, by September, 2012, the Egyptian army had closed down 162 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
The US is relying on the Egyptian army to support the new constitution. In his visit to Egypt last November, US Secretary of State John Kerry is reported to have said: “’The road map is being carried out to the best of our perception’ … referring to the plan by the Egyptian authorities to conduct a national referendum on an amended Constitution and hold parliamentary and presidential elections by next spring.‘There are questions we have here and there about one thing or another’, he added in a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart. ‘I think it’s important for all of us, until proven otherwise, to accept that this is the track Egypt is on and to work to help it to be able to achieve that.’”(2)
A thoroughly reactionary Draft Constitution by the grace of the Army Command
On track? The new constitution grants immunity to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for any crime committed by the counter-revolutionary army commanders for a period of 5–10 years. An article of the constitution will allow General Sisi to retain his post as defense minister in the event he loses the presidential election. The military representatives in the constitution-drafting committee also called for allowing the military to name the defense minister during the next two presidential terms.
Thus, if the previous constitution put together by the Morsi government in 2012 was bad for the masses, as it attempted to stifle the revolution, the amended constitution now proposed is an all-out assault on the revolution that began in 2011, and aims to totally crush it and restore theancien régimeof Mubarak brought down by the masses.
Muslim Brotherhood and Left oppose the Constitution
Initially, theAnti-Coup Allianceled by theMuslim Brotherhoodhad considered calling on its supporters to vote against the constitution. However, the intensive police crackdown on the supporters of this movement, which is destroying its social base and weakening its chances of defeating the new constitution at the polls, is now calling for its supporters to boycott of the referendum. Hamza al-Farawy, a spokesman for the Anti-Coup Alliance which demands Morsi’s reinstatement, said that the group rejected any vote under military rule.
The military junta is not only cracking down of the Muslim Brotherhood, but is also repressing political groups and activists who initially backed the July 3rdcoup, such as theApril 6thYouth Movementand the centristRevolutionary Socialists(RS). These latter groups have also denounced the new constitution because of several controversial articles, in particular one which allows civilians to be tried by military tribunals as well as the unlimited power granted to the army.
On the other hand, Mohamed Salem, secretary-general of the state-backedEgyptian Federation for Trade Unions, has said the union will endorse the new constitution proposed for Egypt. “We should all unite together; so we have decided to vote ‘Yes’ in the constitutional referendum,” Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported. (3)
Salem said the union supports the proposed constitution, in spite of a 50% reduction in the number of seats in parliament to be allotted to representatives for workers and peasants, and regardless of the growing opposition of the Egyptian working class to the new constitution. This declaration of support by the labor bureaucracy is an open betrayal of the workers!
The Struggle against the Army-led Counterrevolution continues!
But the rank and file of the workers themselves knows what is in their own interest. After the coup in July last year, the number of protests declined significantly which led some short-sighted observers to assume that the revolution is finished.In fact, what we have witnessed in the past 6 months are the advance of the counter-revolution, massive terror against the opposition, and violent intimidation of the working class and the popular masses. Several thousands of people have been killed and many more wounded and arrested. More than 10,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including its main leaders, are in jail.
According to official figures of 14 Egyptian human rights groups, a total of 2,665 people died between July and October 2013. This is 2.5 times as many (1,075) as were killed during the 2011 revolution which led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. (4)
However, despite its brutal terror campaign, the dictatorship has not succeed in breaking popular resistance. In the last few months, working class protests are on the rise, especially those led by the Mahalla textile workers who went out on strike in October, and the Sukhari Gold miners who stopped work in December. Their protests were smashed by the Egyptian police on December 15th. A sit-in of 5,000 steel workers from the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company in Helwan demanding higher wages also took place in December. As we know since the days of Isaac Newton, every motion has its counter motion,and thus the counter-revolution is facing stiff resistance. This being the case,now is the time to prepare a general strike to once again ignite the revolution that was so severely set back by the coup!
On December 25, the military-backed interim government declared that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “terrorist organization.” Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested. Property of known Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists has been confiscated. At least 87 schools affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have been closed. Mursi’s trial is to be resumed onJanuary28. He and other Muslim Brotherhood members face charges of inciting violence against anti-government protesters in December 2012; having escaped from prison during the 2011 uprising; and carrying out a “terrorist conspiracy” against Egypt. These charges carry a potential death penalty.We in the RCIT call for the immediate release of all political prisoners by the Egyptian army!
The army’s assumption that it can put an end the revolutionary struggle was a miscalculation. On Friday, January 3rd, the largest anti-coup demonstrations since July took place in throughout Egypt. The army and the police attacked participants in demonstrations called for by the Muslim Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Alliance. According to official Ministry of Health reports, during these latest demonstrations the forces of repression killed at least 14 protesters and injured 62, a figure which is most probably minimizing the actual number of dead and injured. The killings took place in Cairo, the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, Alexandria; Giza, Fayoum, and Minya. According to reports, while the army and the police used live ammunition, some of the demonstrators used home-made guns to protect themselves. Thus, the military dictatorship is driving Egypt to civil war.
The Military Dictatorship is the Main Enemy!
The RCIT opposed the military coup from the very beginning. While we have never given anypoliticalsupport to the Muslim Brotherhood, when the coup toppled the Morsi government, we called to form a united front composed of all forces opposing the counter-revolutionary coup that is aimed at restore theancien régimeof Mubark. (5)
There is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood is a bourgeois Islamist organization with reactionary views on many issues. Howeverthe immediate, most dangerous enemy of the revolution is General Sisi and the army command,which enjoys the unlimitedsupport of the Egyptian ruling class as well as the imperialist powers (including Israel).The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, is the largest mass political organization which represents, in particular, large sectors of the lower middle class and the urban poor. The bourgeois character of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Alliance does not alter the fact that it stands at the top of the democratic mass struggle against the dictatorship.
Centrists Stand on the Sidelines
It is a shame that groups like theApril 6thYouth Movementand theRevolutionary Socialists(close to the SWP in Britain and ISO in the USA) still refuse to support the mass struggle against the dictatorship led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead they organize small protests which represent nothing. They raise slogans like “Against Al-Sissi, the Moslem Brotherhood, long live revolution” and carry banners on the streets saying “Reserved for revolutionaries, forbidden to Moslem Brothers, the army and feloul”. (6)
All this attests to pathetic centrist ignorance. These groups initially even welcomed the coup d’état of General Sisi! Later, reality forced them to admit that Sisi is not the liberator of the people but rather a tyrant. Today they are still incapable of recognizing the difference between the military dictatorship and those who fight on the streets and give their lives to defend democratic rights against this tyranny!
Prepare for the Overthrow of the Military Dictatorship! For a Workers Party!
The real choice in Egypt is not between the Egyptian army, a tool of American imperialism, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The real choice is between the pro-imperialist dictatorship and the struggle of the working class and popular masses for their rights. This struggle is now taking place in the mass demonstrations organized by the Anti-Coup Alliance as well as the strikes of the textile workers and others for higher wages. Revolutionaries must intervene in these struggles, fight against the bourgeois leadership, and transform the protests into a political class struggle led by the working class. Real democracy and social justice can only be achieved by a revolution led bythe working class, a revolution that can only be won by means of a mass, armed uprising that will split the working class and peasant Egyptian solders from their officers, and bring them to the side of the revolution and against the counter revolution.
The RCIT calls all Egyptian workers and peasants to boycott the constitutional referendum.Prepare a General Strike against the military dictatorship!Fight for a revolutionary Constitutional Assembly!
Furthermore, we call for the formation of a mass workers’ party to fight the coup, in which revolutionaries will be able to openly work for a revolutionary socialist program. Such a program will call, among other things, for the expropriation of the main factories and financial institutions in Egypt and place them under workers’ control. This party will fight for a workers’ government supported by the peasants and the oppressed layers of society, including women, youth, and the unemployed.
We call all revolutionaries in Egypt to unite on the basis of an authentic revolutionary program and to seek discussion and collaboration with the RCIT. Forward in building a revolutionary workers party in Egypt as part of the Fifth Workers International!
(1) The Jerusalem Post: Israel warns US: Alienating Egyptian army could risk peace talks, August 20, 2012:http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Israel-warns-US-Alienating-Egyptian-army-might-risk-peace-talks-323642
(2) Michael R. Gordon: Egyptians Following Right Path, Kerry Says, The New York Times, November 3, 2013http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/04/world/middleeast/kerry-egypt-visit.html?
(3) Ahram Online: Egyptian Federation for Trade Unions calls for ‘Yes’ in constitutional referendum, Wednesday 1 Jan 2014,http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/90587.aspx
(4) Salma Shukrallah: More Egyptians killed post-Morsi than during 2011 revolution: Rights groups, 4 Jan 2014,http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/90800/Egypt/Politics-/More-Egyptians-killed-postMorsi-than-during–revol.aspx
(5) See the following statements, among others, that we have made just before and in the months since the coup ofJuly3:
RCIT: Tasks of the Revolution in Egypt, July 2, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/tasks-of-egypt-revolution/
RCIT: Egypt: Down with the Military Coup d’État! Prepare Mass Resistance! July 8, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-down-with-military-coup-d-etat/
Yossi Schwartz: Egypt: The U.S. Support for the Military Coup and the Left’s ignorance Notes on the role of US imperialism in the military’s coup d’état and the failure of the Egypt left, July 11, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-us-support-for-military-coup/
Michael Pröbsting: The Military’s Coup d’État in Egypt: Assessment and Tactics. A reply to the criticism of the WIVP and the LCC on the meaning of the Military’s Coup d’État and the slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, 17.7.2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-meaning-of-coup-d-etat/
Yossi Schwartz: Egypt: Mobilize Resistance against the reactionary military regime! Down with the army’s puppet-government! No political support for Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood! For independent working class mobilization with a revolutionary perspective! 27.7.2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-no-to-military-regime/
Michael Pröbsting: The Coup d’État in Egypt and the Bankruptcy of the Left’s “Army Socialism”. A Balance Sheet of the coup and another Reply to our Critics (LCC, WIVP, SF/LCFI), 8.8.2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-and-left-army-socialism/
RCIT: Egypt: Appeal for solidarity after steel workers arrested by army, Aug 13, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-solidarity-with-steel-workers/
RCIT: Egypt: International Solidarity against the Army Crackdown! August 14, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-international-solidarity/
Nina Gunić: Austria: Solidarity Demonstration in Vienna against the military dictatorship in Egypt. Down with Al-Sisi! Long live international solidarity! Report on the demonstration in Vienna against the military dictatorship in Egypt, Aug 18, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-solidarity-demo-in-austria/
Yossi Schwartz: Israel and the Coup in Egypt. Israel’s primary concerns regarding Egypt are the possible fall of the military regime or a descent into civil war, Aug 21, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/israel-and-egypt-coup/
Nina Gunić: Egypt: Solidarity Rally in Austria – Workers and oppressed unite! Down, Down, Down with Sisi! Freedom, Freedom for Egypt! Report from a Rally in Austria in Solidarity with the Resistance in Egypt, Aug 25, 2013,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/egypt-solidarity-rally-in-austria/
(6) JacquesChastaing: Egypt: Revolutionaries back on the streets, International Viewpoint, 8 January 2014,http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article3235