Mubarak goes, but his regime is intact – the Revolution has just started!

07.04.2011 | Sinan KARASU
In Egypt, the 30-year-old Mubarak regime collapsed like a house of cards thanks to the 18-day epic struggle of the masses. On February 11, more than 25 million people took on to the streets and Mubarak could not hold out any more. It took less than three weeks to overthrow one of the most powerful dictatorships in the Middle East by the mass movement from below. However, though Mubarak’s gone, his regime remained intact. The Egyptian workers and the poor masses by allowing a “transition” under the control of the army will have destroyed what they have heroically built. The working class should only rely on its own organization.

The age of revolution is not over, but it is just beginning! Lenin characterized the twentieth century as an epoch of wars, revolutions, and counter-revolutions and it turned out that he was right. The transition from the twentieth century to the twenty-first century has hitherto been essentially an age of wars and counter revolutions, but now we see that it is also the age of revolution. Those who think that revolution is a pipedream must revise their convictions.

In Egypt, the 30-year-old Mubarak regime collapsed like a house of cards thanks to the 18-day epic struggle of the masses. On February 11, more than 25 million people took on to the streets and Mubarak could not hold out any more. Thus not only Mubarak, but also his government was overthrown. The working masses once again proved that once they moved resolutely, no force on the earth can stop them. It took less than three weeks to overthrow one of the most powerful dictatorships in the Middle East by the mass movement from below.

However, though Mubarak’s gone, his regime remained intact. Mubarak gave up his authority to the army, the so-called Higher Military Council. Having thus destroyed the first major barrier, the revolution encountered with the first barrier of illusions. Before February 11, the Egyptian masses were fighting against the enemies on the other side of the barricade, but now they should also deal with the friendly-looking enemies standing on this side of the barricade.

First and foremost, that Tantawi, appointed as the head of Higher Military Council, was also the Minister of Defense and the Field Marshall in the old regime shows that Mubarak’s regime has not yet been destroyed. However, it is not only that the same faces are still ruling the roost.

The Egyptian army means capitalism, the Egyptian army means Mubarak regime.

According to official data, the Egyptian army with a total of a million soldiers–half a million active–is the tenth largest army in the world. However, the power of the Egyptian army does not only stem from its military power. Since the fall of monarchy in 1952, all of the four Egyptian presidents originated from the army. The Egyptian army receives approximately $1.5 billion a year in American military aid, and the bulk of the money has been spent to maintain the order that the American imperialism dictated. Moreover, just like the Turkish army, the staff officers of the Egyptian army are traditionally trained in the United States.   

However, there is a greater similarity between the Egyptian and the Turkish armies, and that is one of the most significant points of the situation in Egypt: the Egyptian army itself has become a big entrepreneur, a capitalist incarnate, and thus in Egypt the army is not only the representative of capitalism, but it is capitalism itself.

mısır-Egypt Revolution 2011

The state is not only an organ of class rule, but also an organ of oppression and domination for the ruling class. Thus the state in every society could easily be reduced to the army, police force, prisons, and courts. So the army is in every country the army of the bourgeoisie, an organ of the bourgeoisie. Egypt is no exception – the Egyptian army is the servant of the Egyptian bourgeoisie.

However, in Egypt the army is not only a servant of capitalism, but also its master, its owner. The Egyptian army did not restrict itself solely to become the common representative of the capital as a whole, and has become itself a major capitalist. The army, an organ of the bourgeoisie as a class, has become an owner of capital; the higher staff of the army, not as individual owners but as a corporate body, has become a big capital owner. Apart from the individual capital accumulation of the higher staff of the army, the Egyptian army itself is a giant capitalist in a wide range of fields: Hotel, construction, electronics, home appliances, clothing, food, finance etc. Thus the bulk of the Egyptian economy is the hands of the Egyptian army, which means that the ties between capitalism and the army in Egypt are much more evident and inextricable.

Despite all, the course of the revolution thus far has shown that this bourgeois character and role of the army has not yet been realized by the masses. The masses rightly made a distinction with the army and the rank-and-filers, the workers in uniform, and displayed brilliant examples of fraternization, but this revolutionary position, unfortunately, has gone hand in hand with the masses’ trust in the army – a fatal mistake.  

At a first glance this might seem quiet contradictory. Despite the fact that the Egyptian army has had close ties with the Mubarak dictatorship, despite the fact that the Mubarak regime was a military-police dictatorship, despite the fact that the Egyptian army has been the loyal “ally” of the American and Israeli imperialism in the region, and moreover the general staff of the army has prospered phenomenally under the old regime, how could it be that the masses have had illusions about the army? 

Here the main reason is that in the late capitalist countries the army had an active role in the foundation of the nation-state and occasionally played, or rather was forced to play a “national defensive” role against imperialism. In addition to its historical role, in the last decades what the army did not represent has been more important than what it represented. The sympathy towards the army has been fed from the hatred towards the police and the intelligence forces. Although the army has been no more than a “good cop” against the “bad cop” (viz. the police force itself), it has unfortunately succeeded to conceal its actual role thanks, for instance, to the work of public relations, which is similar to the work done by the Turkish army. Furthermore, the Mubarak dictatorship, compared with the other dictatorships in the region such as the Saddam regime, had been less oppressive and bloodthirsty, which has reinforced the illusory sympathy towards the army. Adding all of them the support given to the army by the likes of Muslim Brotherhood (İhvan) and al-Baradei, it is hardly surprising to see illusions in the masses. Once again the working class suffers from the lack of a revolutionary leadership.     

Whatever the reasons, the position against the army is vitally wrong. To make a distinction between the rank-and-filers and the army staff and to give no support to the army is imperative for the revolutionary movement, since the Egyptian army means capitalism. The Egyptian army’s rule is the domination of the bourgeoisie, which was formerly embodied in the Mubarak dictatorship and today will be embodied in a “democratic” faced dictatorship. The Egyptian workers and the poor masses by allowing a “transition” under the control of the army will have destroyed what they have heroically built. The working class should only rely on its own organization.

Fortunately, there were also encouraging sparks on the part of the working class. Within the 36-hour period after Mubarak was overthrown, it was reported that the workers have continued strikes and protests in many sectors. Workers in many sectors–textile, telecommunication, sugar, oil, steel, transportation, mining etc.–proclaimed not in words, but in deed that the struggle is far from over. The revolutionary struggle is moving from the squares to the factories and workplaces – that is where the knot will be untied.

The revolution has just started! The working class far from leaving the streets must establish its own action committees, and take control of the entire social life. To meet the demands of the masses, cosmetic changes will be of no avail. A thoroughgoing transformation is necessary. To achieve this goal the first step is to deal mercilessly with the old regime. All the bans against the right of organization must be abolished. The action committees of the workers and the other exploited must ensure the convocation of the Constituent Assembly and free elections. Mubarak and his cohort must be immediately tried. These are the first steps paving the way for the seizure of power by the workers and the other exploited following them.   

February 13, 2011