Debates around the second round of the Egyptian presidential elections
The results of the presidential elections in Egypt were a victory for the elites both of the older regime and of the ones backing the Muslim Brotherhoods. Egypt has been divided since then between people and parties calling to vote for Morsi to make barrage to Shafiq, the man of the regime, while others have called to boycott the second round of elections.
The Revolutionary Youth Union has actually called on Egyptians to head on Friday June 1 to Tahrir Square and other cities in Egypt on ‘Disenfranchisement Friday’ to demand the exclusion of Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq from the presidential race. Shafiq candidacy was actually not legally possible according to the Political Disenfranchisement Law – which would bar Mubarak-era officials, including Shafiq, from holding political office for 10 years.
Omar Shafiq is very much the man of the SCAF and the counterrevolution. Shafiq’s main promise during the campaign was actually to bring security back to the streets within 24 hours of coming to power. In other words, he would unleash the military–which is already guilty of murderous crimes against protesters in the post-Mubarak period–to crush all dissent.
A vast majority of Egyptians refuse the election of a “feloul”, reminiscent of the Mubarak regime, but this does not mean they support the Muslim Brotherhoods (MB). This latter’s role to limit the revolution, backing the SCAF on numerous and numerous occasions since the overthrow, and pro neo liberal policies are well known by the revolutionaries (see previous article on policies and dynamics of the MBs https://cafethawrarevolution.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/the-muslim-brotherhoods-force-of-change-and-enemy-of-the-imperialist-west/). The people have actually witnessed the their counter revolutionary behavior and this can be noticed in the scores of the MBs, they have diminished considerably from nearly 50% of the votes in legislative elections, while their candidate Dr Morsi only obtained 25% of vote in the first round of presidential elections.
The Revolutionary Socialists have nevertheless call to vote for Morsi, in return for political concessions on the side of the MB including forming a broad government with the candidate Hamaden Sabahi as one of the vice presidents and the approval of the proposed labour law conceding the right for workers to carry out union activities freely and independently. They believe that voting for Dr Morsi is the best way to increase the opportunities for the continuation of the revolution and prevent the return of the Mubarak regime.
The position of the Revolutionary Socialists is expressed in this statement: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=28595
Some of their members believe that the leadership of the Brotherhood, despite their reactionary policies, has some interests to preserve gains of the revolution such as limited political democracy and an end to state repression, at least against them, which have allowed them to operate freely and assume their status as the largest political force in Egypt. The leadership of the MBs, as an elite bourgeois force, wants to compete political power to SCAF as the hegemonic force, which would lead most probably to some conflict at the top, leaving space for the masses to organize against them. (http://socialistworker.org/2012/06/03/reply-on-egypts-elections)
The problem is that the same that are saying this today were actually the ones that considered the MBs as trying to play the role of being the political arm of the military council (http://socialistworker.org/2012/02/02/egyptian-revolution-after-one-year). He goes on by saying that “After February 11 2011, there were many struggles and demonstrations in Tahrir, with more and more of them developing into protests against the military council. The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted 90 percent of these demonstrations and explicitly told its supporters to stay out of Tahrir.
Many people now look at the Muslim Brotherhood and understand that it wants to play the role of being the political wing for the military council. The ruling class in this country has the military council as the physical force protecting the system, and now the Muslim Brotherhood, with its Freedom and Justice Party, the largest party in the country, is the new political wing of the ruling class. People call them the NDP with long beards–the saying goes that we have the NDP again with NDP policies, but carried out by a man in a beard with a Koran in his hands.”
The author does say in the text that there is contradictory consciousness among the members of the MBs, as a many voted in favor of the party in thinking they will bring social justice.
He ends his text by the following sentences: “They know you can’t rely on the military council or the Muslim Brotherhood, and repeat the same mistake of last year when everybody left the square and went home thinking that someone else was going to finish this revolution. There is a new generation that believes that its own self-activity will be the key to continuing the struggle.”
This last part is actually the source of the debate for the left and is the key to understand the opposition of the SR’s call to support Morsi and to create a national front with the MB in return of political demands. The SR declared few months ago that no trust could be given to the MBs, which we believe is right, but are now changing their position; despite criticizing the political performance of the MBs. Voting for this latter is considered as saving the revolution.
The problem with this last analysis, which we disagree, is believing that the MBs can deliver the demands of the revolutionaries, which they did not believe few months ago. The MBs has all reasons to limit the revolutions, and even though they are not SCAF and not their puppets, the MBs have very often collaborated with SCAF on many issues since the overthrow of Mubarak and opposed the revolutionary masses. We should oppose both the SCAF and the MBs together.
We think also that this position more importantly could severe the influence of the revolutionary socialists and the left among the workers, students, peasant and broader masses.
The issue of the vote and the continuation of the revolution are in our opinion much deeper than the second round of the elections. The coalition of the People’s Socialist party have actually opposed both candidates, considered as enemies of the revolution for different reasons, and called to boycott the second round of elections http://www.facebook.com/notes/%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%8A/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A3%D8%B9%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%87%D8%A7/383718935009143 ).
They continue on saying that the revolution does not choose between two enemies of the revolution, and to establish an alternative center of power in the industries and the agricultural fields, which reflect the true face of the revolution and the aspirations of the Egyptians for a better society to achieve social justice, freedom and equality. They also hold responsible the MBs to deliver in parliament a certain amount of things, including the right to strike and organize.
The editorial board of “Freedom and Communism” the Arabic language magazine of the International Marxist Tendency have also expressed a similar opinion in their open letter to the RS and a good analysis of the situation : http://www.facebook.com/notes/kamil-shami/%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%81%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-an-open-letter-to-the-revolutionary-social/10150912414164888 .
Growing sections of the Egyptian society have decided to boycott the second round of the elections, refusing to give legitimacy to two candidates considered as enemy of the revolution. The Journalists syndicate has for example chosen to boycott the elections. The activists at the campaign’s core stress that they reject the entire electoral process, rejecting elections under military rule.
A united front in these circumstances is not possible, especially in this form of elections. United front in the streets against the repression of SCAF as explained in the case of the article of comrade Hossam Hamalawy is totally acceptable and normal (http://www.arabawy.org/2012/05/11/the-mod-sit-in-sometimes-with-the-islamists-never-with-the-state/), but there is nevertheless a big difference with calling to vote for the MBs and saying that it the only way to save the continuation of the revolution.
The presidential elections are not the end of the revolution, but through the struggle in factories, universities and neighborhoods throughout Egypt.
The left has to continue raising socio-economic issues such as supporting the demands of workers through strikes, the re-nationalization of industries sold to private investors, and the creation and recognition of newly created independent unions. Since the beginning of the revolution last year, some 300 independent unions have been established nationwide, with a reported membership of nearly two million workers. They must while continue to mobilize, aiming to co-ordinate the struggles of protesters in the streets with militancy and self-organisation in the workplaces. The working class does not have nevertheless yet formal entities, organizations, parties, and unions that can claim their representation until today, and this was shown through the first round of the elections. The left has gained ground importantly since the beginning of the revolutionary process last year, but this presence is still not enough among the working class to provide leadership.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions, which includes the 300 independent unions, has been active in intervening in and extending solidarity to strikes, but it had not been the initiator of the industrial actions in the first place. The federation did indeed lent its support for the November 2011 small uprising, but its presence in Tahrir was largely symbolic, and included one tent and a banner.
The 11 February 2012 general strike call was another test for the federation’s strength, yet it once again exposed its weakness. Though the federation endorsed the anti-SCAF general strike call, not a single strike took place. Strikes which occurred on that day were already scheduled in advance by the strike leaders, and we cannot credit the federation with this action.
Many elements for the successful continuation of the revolution exist. Many thousands of convinced revolutionaries want to continue the fight, even though they are not mostly in organized left parties. The struggle of the left should never be limited to parliamentary or presidential issues. The continuation of the revolution will not be secured through parliament or a president but outside in the streets, universities and workplaces. Democracy, social justice and independence will not be achieved merely by concentrating on parliament and the president, and raising demands inside these institutions, whatever the tactical virtue of doing this might be.
As labor organizer Fatma Ramadan said beginning January regarding the legislative elections ‘we are undeterred by parliamentary elections. The battle for parliament is only part of the struggle. The street is where our main fight lies.’
The presidential elections is only one battle, the real struggle is to build the party and the movement which will give the strength to the oppressed and the exploited from the workers, to the students and passing with the peasants.
The revolution continues!