As events continue to unfold in Egypt, the momentum that came with the mass mobilization of the oppressed classes against the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship is being lost as the ruling class and the country's privileged strata are staging a violent and organized counter-revolution. For the international media and political leadership this state of affairs is fraught with both an opportunity to crush this fragile people's revolution and the negative backlash of a brutal crackdown that comes with loss of lives.
The counter demonstration by hordes loyal to President Hosni Mubarak and elements of the feared state security apparatus was a planned, organized event that was intended for only one purpose - to turn a hitherto peaceful mass protest into a violent confrontation and thus create the reason(s) for a sweeping brutal, large scale crackdown Mubarak style. This was and is classic tactics of intimidation and violence baiting by a regime that has fined-tuned them over the course of many practice sessions over the past 30 years in power.
With the eyes of the world on Egypt, the Mubarak dictatorship realized that an immediate, violent public crackdown on the strongest and most vocal challenge to the regime in three decades was only going to alienate world leaders. So the regime, fearing a rash of bad publicity, first allowed the demonstrators to have their say while ringing the protesters with a heavy military cordon. It used warplanes and helicopters flying low overhead to create a climate of fear, terror and intimidation.
The dictatorship soon realized that the mass protest was chaotic, disorganized, and populated by different social currents and strata with varying ideologies, agendas, and demands. Largely leaderless and rudderless this militant mass, although united in its fervent opposition to President Mubarak, still does not have a platform, a plan of action, or a list of immediate demands -" outside of calling for Mubarak's immediate ouster. This uprising was spontaneous, sporadic, unplanned, and largely disorganized. And while it continues to grow in numbers and remains vocal and critical of the dictatorship, as it is presently constituted poses only a limited threat to President Mubarak's rule.
While the objective conditions for deep-going revolutionary transformation and change of Egypt's political, social and economic systems are all in place, there is one critical dimension missing from this equation -" the absence of a revolutionary vanguard party to lead and organize this amorphous group. After 30 years under Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is a police state riddled with cronyism, a wealthy upper and middle class, parasitic lower middle strata, a corrupt bureaucracy, and a large exploited working class that the regime was no longer able to rule.
To remain in power the regime resorted more and more to brutal police repression while it politicized, expanded and empowered all of the organs of state security to spy on ordinary citizens. In an effort to prevent any challenge to its political monopoly President Mubarak banned all opposition political parties making Egypt a one-party state that rubber-stamped his rule every five years. As the gap between rich and poor widened and the inevitable grumbling started from among the oppressed masses he instigated a vicious and sustained crackdown unleashing his police and security forces on the poor.
As a result of this polarization of Egyptian society the class divisions are now the dominant reality of social life. The massive protest movement and the militancy of certain sections of the movement and their uncompromising posture in dealing with the regime is evidence of a powerful but brutally oppressed working class that is clearly at odds with the dictatorship.
Over the past three decades this class has been locked in a bitter struggle with the national secret police and the state security apparatus. There is now an impassible gulf between the Egyptian working class (urban and rural) and the impoverished fellahin (rural peasants working is conditions of near serfdom) and the privileged elite and its political sponsors and protectors. These class divisions have been exposed in this time of crisis by the spontaneous formation of neighborhood committees in the working class areas to defend against attacks by Mubarak's thugs and in the handful of bourgeois gated communities, to guard against the threat of so-called "mob rule."
And as his rule morphed in a virtual kleptocracy of his friends and cronies Mubarak, now ailing and aging, kept his grip on power by surrounding himself with loyalists and friends many of who grew rich and fat under his rule. It is this class that is leading, organizing and financing the counter-revolution in Egypt and which is the greatest threat to all progressives in Egypt. The pro-Mubarak forces are well armed, better organized (they have been in the political/military machine for 30 years now) and with enough money to "buy an unemployed lumpen element" to do its dirty work.
This group does not want to give up its power and prestige or its wealth should a deep-going social, economic and political transformation take place. Initially taken aback and caught by surprise this reactionary group has re-organized itself and now forms the engine through which President Mubarak and his regime hopes to quell this protest. In the coming days and weeks, barring something truly unexpected and unforeseen, the violence is bound to get worse as the struggle between the poor against the criminal minions of the rich is intensified.
The conundrum for President Mubarak is how to use his tried and tested methods of repression on a largely defenseless protest without appearing heavy-handed and violent. The sustained use of he counter-revolutionary forces could get out of hand and could spark a more violent reaction from the anti-Mubarak demonstrators. The regime's other dilemma is how to contain the spread of this fledgling revolution from reaching all corners of Egypt.
Should this mass movement draw into its ranks large sections of Egypt's farmers and peasants, this alliance -" between the working class in the cities and urban centers and the peasants and farmers in the rural areas -" could be the final nail in the regime's coffin. President Mubarak knows this and that is why the military is deployed to regions in the countryside.
That is why there needs to quickly emerge a vanguard party from among the various detachments of the working classes and their allies that will lead, organize and focus this people's movement. It is from among the people that a new cadre of leaders will emerge that is untainted by the corruption and excesses of the regime and therefore will be acceptable, credible and trusted by all of the progressive and militant forces.
Without a vanguard party or movement this weak and fragile revolution will not succeed and this "revolutionary moment" will be lost. If this happens, it may take a number of years, even decades, before the objective and subjective conditions are ripe for a radical, deep-going systemic change. Egypt's militant progressive classes cannot afford to let this moment slip.
Finally, this revolution should not delude itself that the military, especially the armed forces, are on its side. As the coercive arm of the state the armed forces is beholden to and under the control of the state apparatus, indeed it is an integral part of the state. The military top brass are the friends and confidantes of President Mubarak. While it has remained ostensibly neutral for the time being, it will ultimately look the other way when other organs of the state security apparatus instigate provocations and violence.
Revolutionary situations are never clean and orderly. They are always messy, and before a clear, organized regime is in place there will be periods of the worse mob violence. In Egypt this situation is aggravated by the fact that during normal times the police that is charged to keep the peace and protect peaceful demonstrators have abandoned that role and have become agent provocateurs on the side of the pro-Mubarak forces. Their role and that of the army is to support and defend the state as it presently is. If there is a violent shift in tactics by these two forces many innocent people will be killed.