Sunday, January 30, 2011

Workers World covers Egypt

Workers World covers the action in Egypt.

Egyptian protests intensify, challenge 30 years of pro-U.S. dictatorship

Published Jan 27, 2011 10:19 PM

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt demanding the ouster of U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak. These are the largest anti-regime protests in Mubarak’s 30-year rule of this North African country of 85 million people. Though the White House has declared the Mubarak regime “stable,” even greater protests are expected on Jan. 28 following Friday services at mosques throughout the country.

Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 26.

Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 26.

Egyptian opposition forces were inspired by the uprising in nearby Tunisia, which on Jan. 14 forced that country’s dictator, Zine El Abadine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia. The uprising in Tunisia surprised not only its own rulers but their imperialist overlords in Paris and Washington.

The smallest of the North African countries, Tunisia’s worldwide role has been limited. The Egyptian regime, on the other hand, is the lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy in the Arab world.

U.S. diplomacy in the region and its support for the Israeli settler state has also depended on Egyptian compliance and cooperation. Thus a collapse of the Mubarak-led dictatorship in Egypt brought about by a mass popular uprising could have an enormous impact on imperialist and Israeli policy in the entire region.

In Egypt, a coalition of opposition groups — including the Karama, the April 6th Movement, the National Association for Change, the Popular Democratic Movement for Change, the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists — had called for national demonstrations against the Mubarak regime on Jan. 25. The regime celebrates this day as “Law Day,” but the opposition called it a “Day of Anger.”

Usually anti-government protests in Egypt consist-s of a few hundred people, bravely defying double that number of quite brutal police. On Jan. 25, tens of thousands came out in Cairo and other thousands in Alexandria, Suez and many other Egyptian cities.

Police repressive, people fight back

The next day tens of thousands more came out to continue the protests. Their demands include that Mubarak leave, that his son Gamal Mubarak — who was expected to be named his successor — retire from politics, and for freedom, justice and a democratic regime. Egypt has between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners. The regime arrested another 1,200 demonstrators by late on Jan. 26, according to independent attorneys.

Most reports described an afternoon with demonstrators dodging water cannons, tear gas and police batons. The British Guardian’s Cairo correspondent Jack Shenker — who was rounded up with a group of protesters — brought out to the world what Egyptian protesters already knew. He graphically described how people were beaten and mistreated and nearly killed while trucked away toward the desert.

Then on Jan. 27, the police opened up with plastic bullets and live ammunition. In the town of Sheik Suwajed in the Sinai Peninsula, a Bedouin was killed. Overcoming the fear that a brutal system depends on to stay in power, the people came back even stronger.

In Suez City that morning, demonstrators set the local police headquarters on fire. In addition to raising political demands, families from all over gathered to demand that their relatives, imprisoned for up to three days, be released.

Official reports said that six people died during the first three days of demonstrations, two of them police. Hundreds more demonstrators were injured.

Role of the U.S.

Washington supplies $2 billion in aid yearly to Egypt, most of it military aid. It had Egyptian support in 1991 for the first assault on and invasion of Iraq. Israel counts on Egypt to police the southern border of Gaza, under blockade for the past four years.

Washington has supported Mubarak for decades. Now it is faced with the choice of backing his regime to the end or trying to arrange for a transition to a new government that is also dependent on imperialist support and would basically continue the same policies. This means a pro-imperialist and pro-U.S. foreign policy and neo-liberal economic policies inside Egypt.

In situations that had some similarities in the past — for example, the Philippines and Haiti in 1986, Zaire and Indonesia in the 1990s — U.S. imperialism was able to achieve both. It has supported dictatorships until their rule became untenable and then shifted its support to the opposition, helping to arrange the transition. If the change involved having opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and his group replace Mubarak, that would likely be a change Washington could live with.

Statements by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have called for political reforms in Egypt but have also asked both the government and the protesters to refrain from violence. The government has a virtual monopoly on violence. Its tanks, tear gas and ammunition all come from the United States. But if the tens of millions of Egyptians who live on less than $2 a day join the protests of the political opposition, these weapons won’t be enough to save the regime.

To show solidarity with the Egyptian protesters, people are invited to join a demonstration on Sat., Jan. 29, from 1-3 p.m. at the United Nations in New York City at First Avenue and 47th Street.

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