Haitham Mohamedain: Letters to the revolutionary youth (1)
Article by Haitham Mohamedain (part 1)
Letter 1: Terrorism or the anger of the masses?
In the context of escalating terrorism by the state against all who demand freedom and social justice in the form of massacres, arrests, smashing demonstrations, pardoning criminals, and wholesale killings, it was noticeable that some of the youth reacted to the killing of soldiers [in Sinai] with support or indifference. So what is the correct position in relation to these operations? Do they serve the cause of change and the revolution or not?
The masses are the solution when they fight back. Hosni Mubarak faced two kinds of opposition during his hateful rule: the first of these was armed terrorism, the method which the Gama’at Islamiyya [Islamist groups] relied on, targeting officers and police stations, tourists and key figures in the regime. So what did it achieve?
These groups replaced the masses with themselves, and raised sectarian slogans, giving the Mubarak regime perfect cover to crush any social or political movements during this period. Class struggle disappeared from the scene, and instead blood and killings dominated the pages of the newspapers and the political scene in general. The ruling class became tighter-knit than ever before, bringing in privatisation and forcing hundreds of thousands of workers out of the public sector. Prices of goods and services spiralled out of control. Power and wealth were in the grip of the handful of businessmen and neo-liberalism was the order of the day.
The mass movement retreated, and those sections which did dare to move were mown down by bullets. Striking Iron and Steel Company workers were shot down in 1989. The police also opened fire on workers in Kafr al-Dawwar in 1994, and killed peasants during their uprising in 1997. Meanwhile the regime was able to pass all its policies by repression thanks to the State of Emergency, which was continuously renewed on the pretext of fighting terrorism. The armed groups failed miserably in their attempt to institute an “Islamic state”, and even recanted their position from inside prison at the end of the 1990s.
In short, armed terrorism failed to bring down the Mubarak regime, and instead helped it.
Armed terrorism steps aside and the masses take centre stage
After the long suffering of the Egyptian people under Mubarak’s policies which impoverished the majority under the cover of repression and the State of Emergency, student and popular movements began to appear again after the dust of the battle with terrorism had settled. Hundreds of thousands joined protests to support the Palestinian Intifada [in 2000] and for the first time since Mubarak took power in 1981, a genuine opposition began to form. Hopes of change began to rise, and for the first time under Mubarak’s rule, groups of revolutionary youth appeared who rejected existing conditions and strove to overcome them.
The protests from the universities attracted growing numbers of ordinary people, until the masses entered Tahrir Square in March 2003 in demonstrations sparked by the invasion of Iraq. For the first time the call for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak was raised during popular protests. Confidence began to rise, and thousands of young people joined the movements for change. The Kefaya movement was founded, which played a pivotal role in putting the demand for the downfall of Mubarak on the agenda of the movement for change.
Against the backdrop of the spaces which had been seized by these national and political demonstrations the social movement entered. A storm of strikes began with the walkout by workers in Mahalla in December 2006, and the slogan “Down with Hosni Mubarak” moved from Cairo to the provinces, from Tahrir Square to Shoun Square in Mahalla during the uprising there, which showed that the overthrow of Mubarak was possible for the first time.
The mass movement continued to rise, rejecting political tyranny and social injustice, until the explosion of the revolution of 25 January.
28 January: the anger of the masses is the solution
Over the course of a decade of targeting police officers during the 1990s, the armed groups did not succeed in weakening the institution of the police which was killing and terrorising the masses. Nor did they cause even a crack in the Mubarak regime. By contrast, the Day of Rage, 28 January 2011 represented an earthquake which struck the Mubarak regime and broke its repressive arm, defeating the entire police force within hours. The masses did not use bombs or cannon: their strength lay in numbers and their just demands. They did not raise the demand of an Islamic state or sectarian slogans, but called for a state of bread, freedom and social justice, a state for all its citizens, Christians and Muslims, a state for the poor and oppressed. They succeeded in bringing down Mubarak and created a new reality, the reality of revolution, which rejected the old policies of repression and injustice, and rejected all those who represented them and who attempted to follow their path. The masses had seized the initiative and knew their strength lay in collective struggle. They knew that they could bring about the change they desired when they moved.
Parts (2) and (3) will be published shortly