Egypt

Class, power and the state in the Arab Spring

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This month marks the third anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution. Simon Assaf examines some key lessons while Anne Alexander spoke to three Egyptian revolutionaries.

At the forefront of the Arab Spring were the movements that took to the streets in vast numbers. The revolutions drew in diverse social forces - workers organisations, youth movements, left wing parties, liberals as well as Islamists - that have over the past three years battled to put themselves at its head. The revolutions have revealed the shortcomings of the established opposition parties, as well as the ability of the state and old ruling classes to adapt and survive. They have thrown up powerful street movements, but also forces of sectarianism and reaction.

Workers and the Arab revolutions

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On the third anniversary of the Arab Spring the revolutions stand at a crossroads. Over the next three months Socialist Review will be exploring the politics and development of these popular revolts. Anne Alexander open this series with an assessment of the nascent workers' movements in Egypt and Tunisia.

"The Russian bourgeois revolution of 1905-07...was undoubtedly a real people's revolution, since the mass of the people, its majority, the very lowest social strata, crushed by oppression and exploitation, rose independently and placed on the entire course of the revolution the impress of their own demands, of their attempts to build in their own way a new society in place of the old society that was being destroyed."

(Lenin, The State and Revolution, 1918)

Egypt: Revolution contained?

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The 30 June military coup marks the gathering strength of the counter-revolution in Egypt.

Egypt is under threat from "terrorists" and "murderers", says General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. Justifying the army's assault on the Muslim Brotherhood in August, he used rhetoric familiar from decades of repression under ex-president Mubarak. Blink, and it could have been Mubarak, with his talk of national unity and a mission to act as "guardian of the people's will", coupled with chilling threats about the fate of those who resist.

Egypt's rebels

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Like many of the things which have changed history, the "Rebel" campaign in Egypt started with a very simple idea. At the beginning of May, a group of young revolutionary activists launched a drive to collect signatures on a statement withdrawing confidence from president Mohammed Morsi and calling for early elections. They announced that their goal was to have more than 15 million signatories by the anniversary of Morsi's inauguration on 30 June.

Few can have expected the idea to get very far - its initiators had no organisational machine to turn slogans into reality, and did not even share a common political platform.

Yet within days the campaign was spreading like wildfire. In just over a week the first two million signatures had rolled in. By the beginning of June they had reached the half-way mark: 7.5 million. A week before the 30 June deadline, campaign organisers announced they had hit the target of 15 million.

Egypt: the Muslim brotherhood under pressure

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In recent months thousands of Egyptians have protested against President Mohamed Morsi. Sameh Naguib, a leading Egyptian revolutionary socialist, argues that the liberals and Muslim Brotherhood are losing their influence over the movement in the streets and workplaces

The starting point for our analysis has to be the crisis which has engulfed the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called "secular" liberal opposition forces. In part, this crisis stems from both camps' misunderstanding of the nature of the Egyptian Revolution. Liberal writers, for example, refer to the democratic transformation which took place in Spain in 1974, or the democratic transition in Eastern Europe and the "colour revolutions".

Egypt: State in flux

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The waves of strikes that have swept Egypt since the overthrow of Mubarak have fractured the state machine, giving a boost to reformist forces. Anne Alexander looks at how revolutionaries should relate to these new forces, especially those emerging around Hamdeen Sabahi.

The stifling heat of summer makes Cairo hell for its poorest inhabitants. The rich turn up their air conditioners, while hundreds of thousands in the "informal" neighbourhoods suffer water shortages and power cuts. This year the people of the Saft al-Laban area took matters into their own hands. On 22 July, after weeks without water, they stormed the Giza governorate buildings and locked the gates. On 11 August they took their protests to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation. At one point protesters cornered the minister, putting down a glass of filthy brown water in front of him.

Under pressure

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After Mohamed Morsi's victory in Egypt Phil Marfleet looks at the fractures in the Muslim Brotherhood's base and the challenges that face the left

Egypt has a new civilian president, but one shackled by the army and the Mubarak state. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood takes office without a parliament and with the country's generals breathing down his neck. He is also under intense pressure from the revolutionary movement, which expects results promptly from an elected leader.

The workers' movement in Egypt

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A call for a general strike in Egypt on 11 February didn't produce the desired effect. Yet the current strike wave shows no signs of abating. Anne Alexander looks at the strengths and weaknesses of Egypt's new workers' movement and the different forces attempting to shape it

Just over a year after the fall of Mubarak, the landscape of the Egyptian workers' movement has changed dramatically. The strike wave shows little sign of running out of energy: the numbers ebb and flow but each month brings new explosions of action. The old state-run union federation has been wounded and weakened but not destroyed.

The generals, the Islamists and the Egyptian Revolution

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After the recent election Egypt's parliament is dominated by Islamists, especially representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. But, argues Phil Marfleet, the Brotherhood faces immense pressure from Egyptians to deliver real change and break with the military

Egypt's new parliament, which convened on 23 January, is overwhelmingly Islamist. Seventy three percent of the People's Assembly, the lower house, is composed of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nour Party. This suggests a stunning electoral performance by the Islamists and a tricky time ahead for revolutionary activists who do not embrace their agendas. But the picture is much more complicated - as Islamists discovered only 48 hours after the Assembly convened.

'The union is a shield and our sword is the strike'

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The left and the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian Doctors' Union

A rank and file slate, including socialists, won major successes in recent elections to Egypt's Doctors' Union, long a bastion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Anne Alexander spoke to Mohammed Shafiq, an organiser of this electoral campaign and a doctor at Manshiyet al-Bakri hospital in Cairo

We took 25 percent of the seats on the general council of the Doctors' Union. We had no seats at all before. And we took at least 50 percent of the local union branches. The strongest branches of the union are the Cairo branch and the Alexandria branch, followed by Giza. In Cairo we took 14 out of 16 seats and in Alexandria ten out 12 seats, although we lost in Giza. Around 50 to 60 percent of Egypt's doctors are in those three governorates. The rest are not very significant.

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