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The counter-revolution and the masses: what is to be done?

ضدك-يا-سجان-770x380Article by Mahmoud Ezzat

We have seen a massive turnout at the polls culminate in Al-Sisi’s election as president with a sweeping nearly 93 percent of the vote in the midst of massive popular celebrations

This is the picture which the counter-revolution’s media machine is trying to falsely present in the newspapers and on TV to summarise the presidential elections. The reality is much more complex. It is necessary for revolutionaries at every moment of the struggle, whether during a period of upturn or retreat, to analyze the situation properly in order to decide on the appropriate tactics in order to advance towards revolution and towards building the revolutionary party.

Such steps may be measured in inches or miles, depending on the objective situation of the revolution. Is the movement is rising, so we should push out and raise concrete demands in the ranks of the working class? Or are we in a period of frustration and inactivity, under attack from the authoritarian laws of the counter-revolution while the masses are hostile and resistance is weak? Thus we have to assess al-Sisi’s election and come to an analysis in order to decide on the correct tactics for revolutionary groups.

The idea that al-Sisi has swept to victory by winning the hearts of the people on a huge scale is contradicted strongly by the fact that the regime had to use every tool in its armoury to turn out the masses to vote. The propaganda campaign in the media told people that failure to participate would mean that “the nation will be lost”. Religious fatwas made boycott a sin, polling day was declared a national holiday and then voting was extended for a third day, while non-voters were threatened with a fine of 500 pounds. And all this unfolded in a state of noticeable confusion, with polling stations empty, as voters abstained and popular enthusiasm for al-Sisi’s call for “a mandate” drained away.

Of course, the empty polling stations do not represent a victory for the boycott campaign launched by the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy. 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 al-Sisi and those who previously participated in the revolution, but as a result of their frustration have decided 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: it is favourable to the counter-revolution. The best thing for the dictatorship in order to impose its repressive laws, is to encounter a state of surrender and frustration among the masses and a lack of resistance. This bloc was born out frustration and it will return to the political scene once again if it finds a genuine alternative to express its interests.

As for the section of the masses which decided to vote, the vast majority backed the counter-revolution and its leader, al-Sisi. However this camp is also fragile and full of contradictions. A part of it is made up of the remnants of [Mubarak’s] National Democratic Party, businessmen, figures from Mubarak’s state and other elements of the counter-revolution. However 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 them solutions, they have turned against it and chosen the illusory stability which al-Sisi pretends to offer. This bloc of al-Sisi’s voters may fracture internally once a devastating social crisis exposes his claims to be their savior. 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 al-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 and its leader al-Sisi, however small it is, has not given in 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, for all it contains contradictions between reformists and revolutionaries. The principal battle now is to work on the unity of this bloc with the bloc of revolutionaries who boycotted in order to consolidate a nucleus for the opposition to the regime 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 such as the political detainees and 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 or the trade unions and elsewhere. The goal is to win the biggest section of the masses to revolutionary ideas rather than 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 will bring about social justice. These factors will assist the work of the revolutionary bloc in the face of the deep economic crises which al-Sisi’s regime will face and from which it will not be able to escape except through job cuts and by impoverishing millions in order to preserve the profits of businessmen. 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.

In short, the battle now is to preserve the revolutionary bloc, however weak it is at this moment, and build towards the victory of the revolution by building the revolutionary party and the revolutionary fronts. Despite their current weakness, these groups are the essential  nucleus to build on and attempt to expand in preparation for the coming wave of the revolution.