The Western capitalist world is on pins and needles as uncertainty reigns in Egypt. Mass protests and widespread industrial actions now rock a staunch United States ally loudly demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Caught with their pants down these Western nations, led by the United States, are scrambling to wrap their heads around a fluid set of unfolding events that they are powerless to direct or influence. For the past 30 years the Mubarak dictatorship has ruled this populous Arab Muslim nation with an iron hand as successive U.S. Administrations looked the other way.
Mubarak used domestic terrorism as a staple of his high-handed rule to control, cow and alienate large sections of his country's 80 million population. Police brutality, extrajudicial killings, the outlawing of opposition political parties, and rule by decree made Hosni Mubarak a hated man. But before last week, kicking him out of office was a very difficult proposition since his police apparatus' s grip on power and their fondness for naked brute force kept most Egyptians in check and afraid.
And even as America now feigns righteous concern for how events may eventually play out, the country cannot disengage itself from events in Cairo. The revolutionary spark that lit a long-smoldering powder keg had the entire trademark of being "Made in America." Like Tunisia and Yemen, the Egyptian Revolution was triggered by a common issue among ordinary Egyptians that the dictatorship and its henchmen were powerless to deal with -" runaway food prices, especially of basic items that poor Egyptians depend on to feed their families.
Wall Street speculation in commodities and aggravation of the commodities market has brought huge profits for superrich speculations and financial firms like Goldman Sachs while jacking up the price of food worldwide. This now put basic food items out of the reach of ordinary Egyptians. A disproportionately high level of poverty manifests the lopsided development of Egypt's social system, the result of 30 years of the Mubarak Dictatorship, all across the nation and a correspondingly tiny cabal of super rich.
With nothing to lose but their chains working class Egyptians in the factories and in the manufacturing industries, joined fields workers and took to the streets to protest rising food prices that did not keep pace with their low wages. They were soon joined by office workers, the unemployed, university students, the intelligentsia and elements of the lower middle classes in a huge amorphous group united under one slogan: Mubarak must go.
Soon this revolution spread outside Egypt's capital, Cairo, to key nerve centers like Alexandria and other urban centers. What started in the capital, as a limited demonstration is now a full-blown mass protest driven by a militant revolutionary class that is scaring the hell out of both regional Arab nations and their western sponsors and supporters . While news is limited, it is clear that strikes and protests are sweeping cities and towns throughout this country of 80 million people.
And like all revolutions against moribund, backward and reactionary entrenched dictatorships they are now trembling at the sheer numbers and power of a class of people that it is powerless to check, buy off or browbeat any longer. The demonstrators have remained steadfast in their principled demands and resolute in their focus that there must be a new day in Egypt without Hosni Mubarak. A new Egypt must be built on an honest political inclusiveness. This has had neo-conservatives and their mouthpieces ducking for cover and making the worst dire predictions imaginable.
Ignorant of the true nature of revolutions the New York Times was first out of the box charging that in Egypt there is now "open class warfare," fuming that if things went badly for Mubarak, Israel would get jittery. The control of the Suez Canal was also the big issue for the American right-wing pundits and neo-conservatives that surmised that oil prices were going to rise. Not one of them understood that the Egyptian Revolution was a grassroots-led event that has to do with an aging dictator and a decline in the standard of living for poor Egyptians. Not one of them has offered any sympathy for the deaths of over 100 people exercising their democratic right to protest against the actions of their government.
Such disengagement from the realities of Middle East politics is alarming if not unsurprising since there are many issues that have the ruling elites and classes in London, Paris, Washington and Madrid preoccupied. Not so long ago apologists for a one-system world were gleefully shouting that revolutions were dead and that popular people's uprisings and overthrowing of dictators and political generalissimos were things of the past.
Orderly transitions and managed political events were the new tools used to make sure that international plunder by a handful of western governments went on uninterrupted in places like Egypt. But this flawed reasoning and conclusion on the part of the growing influence of the neo-conservative movement was quickly exposed as modern-day revolutions mushroomed in Latin America. And like Latin America the Egyptian revolution is dealing a devastating blow to the pro-capitalist triumphalism that followed the Soviet bureaucracy's liquidation of the USSR in 1991.
Western historians and think tanks all said in unison that so-called class struggle was dead; socialism and Marxism were now irrelevant in the modern world. "History"--as in "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels)--had ended. They chortled as the Soviet Union twitched in its death throes. Managed and orchestrated revolutions, where conceivable, were stripped of their people and class content by the media's "color-coding" and were politically scripted events led and implemented by the affluent pro-capitalist sections of society.
But the Egyptian revolution is the real thing, the genuine article that can't be color coded or led by the wealthy sections of the society. "The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historic events," wrote Leon Trotsky, one of the foremost experts on the subject. This definition of revolution applies completely to what is now happening in Egypt. Moreover, genuine revolutions are notoriously messy things and one-week, two weeks or even one month are small time allotments in determining how things will eventually play out. So the chorus coming from the mainstream media and its hang ups about when things will be back to normal and who is likely to be the next president, and what is going to be the timetable for a resolution " one way or the other " are childish and infantile musings born of ignorance and a lack of understanding about the nature of revolutions.
For one thing this revolution is young and in its early stages so politically the class forces and alliances are only now being formed. Emerging from decades of repression, the Egyptian working class has not yet chosen a leader(s) or developed its own platform and program of action. In these early opening moments of the unfolding struggle, it could not be otherwise.
"The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old regime" The fundamental political process of the revolution thus consists in the gradual comprehension by a class of the problems arising from the social crisis--the active orientation of the masses by a method of successive approximations. - " Leon Trotsky.
In the opening stages of a revolutionary convulsion, the slogans that predominate are of a generally democratic character as evidenced in the Egyptian context. The ruling elites, and certain strata of the middle class, fearing the approach of the political abyss, seek desperately to maintain what they can of the old order. Promises of "reform" are liberally tossed about. The upper layers of society desire change only to the extent that it does not threaten their wealth and social status. They ardently call for the "unity" of all democratic forces--under their political control, of course, of the representatives of the capitalist class. The personification of this "unity" in Egypt --at least for the moment--is Mohamed El Baradei.
But El Baradei is the preferred candidate of the west and the Egyptian ruling class. He is not the true representative of the classes that triggered the revolution in the first place. While his name is being floated as Mubarak's successor in the western media he cannot lead this movement and is incapable of influencing it in keeping with the aspirations of the hated Egyptian ruling class. And too, El Baradei sees Egypt's problems as simply the inability of Hosni Mubarak to rule and as an opportunity to grab power because of the possible void that will be created by his departure. He does not favor nor support the deep-going systemic changes that the revolution is demanding.