Millions protesters of were again in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities on July 26, both for and against the former Muslim Brotherhood government. Security forces attacked the pro-Morsi protesters, killing many in a fresh massacre.
Ahram Online reported that these were the largest mobilisations since the June 30 protests that brought down the elected, but increasingly unpopular, Muslim Brotherhood-aligned government of President Mohamed Morsi.
Dozens of Pro-Morsi protesters were killed in clashes with security forces. Government spokespeople blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the violence, but Brotherhood spokespeople said protesters were attacked by the military. Ahmed Aref, the Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson, said 66 people were killed, another 61 are "clinically dead", and a further 4500 people were injured, 700 of whom were injured by live bullets.
Ahram Online said on July 27 that Vice-President Mohamed El-Baradei condemned the army's “excessive use of force”. However, the National Salvation Front of which he is spokesperson, while expressing regret at the deaths, blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the provocations.
The April 6 Movement, a youthful grassroots group that played an important role in bringing down former dictator Hosni Mubarack, also condemned the bloodshed. The group, which had opposed Morsi's rule, had not been part of the July 26 pro-military march.
The June 30 protests were the result of grassroots organisation, but the fall of Morsi was secured by the army switching sides to the opposition on July 3. Since then, Morsi has been in military custody. However, his Islamist supporters have held continual sit-ins and mass protests on Fridays that have drawn tens of thousands are increasing in size.
Pro-Morsi protests on July 26 were the largest so far. However, they were decisively outnumbered by anti-Morsi protests, Ahram Online said, with hundreds of thousands packing Tahrir Square.
However, these anti-Morsi mobilisations were not spontaneous ― nor the result of grassroots organising.
They were called on July 24 by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, armed forces commander, deputy PM and defence minister, as a mandate for security forces to “deal with violence and potential terrorism”.
Ahram Online also reported a third, much smaller protest on July 26, opposing both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. A statement by those at the third protest read: “We are a group of Egyptians that participated in the January revolution against the corruption of the Mubarak state for 30 years.
“We went to the streets against [former head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Field Marshal Hussein] Tantawi … during the SCAF rule in the transitional period, and we went down against Morsi’s state corruption and his religious fascism …
“We went to the streets today to reject the intervention of the Egyptian army in politics and to denounce the minister of defence calling for Egyptians to be mandated to kill other Egyptians, claiming it is to fight terrorism.”
Among the organisers of this protest were the April 6 Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists.
The Egyptian military has claimed a strong role in Egyptian politics since the 1952 overthrow of the British-controlled monarchy by nationalist military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser.
However, the military’s dependence on the United States, collaboration with Israel since the 1978 Camp David Agreement and brutality under former dictator Hosni Mubarak made it unpopular.
What popularity the army gained by “going over to the people” during the January-February 2011 mass uprising that brought down Mubarak was lost during the rule of Tantawi and SCAF that followed. The army, and its US backers, facilitated the election of Morsi in June last year ― hoping to gain from the Muslim Brotherhood’s greater popular legitimacy.
A July 25 statement by the Revolutionary Socialists said: “The Brotherhood in only one year of office alienated everyone: the old state, its army and police; the ruling class; the working class and the poor; the Copts; the revolutionary and political parties.
“The fall of the Brotherhood was inevitable, and people were celebrating the downfall of Morsi even before they went into the streets on 30 June.
“The military establishment, which had allied itself with the Islamists over the previous two years, decided to break this alliance after the Islamists failed to contain the social mobilisation and rising anger in the streets.
“So it seized the opportunity to get rid of Morsi and cut off the development of a revolutionary movement and prevent it deepening.”
While the military-based neocolonial state remains, no Egyptian government will be able to satisfy the working class and poor.
Political subservience to the US means economic subservience to the neoliberal policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These policies are responsible for the food and fuel shortages, unemployment, inequality and lack of infrastructure that are at the root of the ongoing Egyptian revolution.
The Morsi regime alienated much of Egyptian society by its response to dissatisfaction among the poor: using death squads directed against political opponents who also terrorised the general public, promoting religious sectarianism and social conservatism in an unsuccessful bid to consolidate Islamist support and the monopolising economic power for Morsi at the expense of those of the old regime and the military.
Since Morsi’s overthrow, his supporters have continued to use armed violence against both the security forces and civilians. But there have also been peaceful pro-Morsi protests and non-violent civil disobedience.
The military, however, has branded all forms of pro-Morsi resistance to the new regime “terrorism”. Its response has included administrative detention and shooting dead more than 50 protesters on June 8.
Tamarod — the mass petition campaign that spearheaded the overthrow of Morsi — supported al-Sisi’s call for mass mobilisations to back the military campaign against the Islamists.
In response, the Revolutionary Socialists’ statement warned against going “into the streets on Friday offering a blank cheque to commit massacres”.
“The crimes that Morsi committed, he committed with the military, the police and Mubarak’s state,” it said. “They should all be tried together.
“Giving the old state a mandate for its repressive institutions to do what they want to their partners-in-crime of yesterday will only give them a free hand to repress all opposition thereafter.
“They will repress all protest movements, workers’ strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations. We cannot forget that the crimes which the Brotherhood committed around the country, took place under the noses of the police and army without them intervening at all to protect protesters or the people …
“Giving the army a popular mandate to finish off the Muslim Brotherhood will inevitably lead to the consolidation of the regime which the revolution arose to overthrow. We must use the downfall of the Brotherhood to deepen the revolution, not to support the regime.”
However, Mamdouh Habashi, co-founder of the Egyptian Socialist Party (ESP), told Green Left Weekly ahead of the July 26 marches that the army wanted to avoid exercising power directly as it did in 2011-2012.
“The army is still standing behind everything, but the army is not leading the government,” he said. “It’s not like the government two years ago that was under the complete control of the army leadership.
“We shall be having a series of elections soon. Not only the parliamentary elections but presidential elections, elections of communities and municipalities and elections of civil society forces like professional unions and so on.”
He said the constitutional process would reveal the differences between the aspirations of the revolutionary movement and the liberal establishment politicians who since July 3 have emerged as its unaccountable spokespeople.
“Many of these forces, including the army and the old state, don’t want to have a social debate: a debate involving the whole society in which everybody can contribute their opinion. Many of them want to limit it to 10 experts, or a discussion of about 50 people.
“We are calling for a real grassroots discussion … The second problem is the points to change. Many of them are discussing only abstract points of liberties, the powers of the presidency and so on.
“We are insisting to include the points of individual rights, of citizens’ rights, of social rights, of economic rights. The right to health care, the right to education, the right to housing and so on.”
The ESP believes disunity is weakening the voice of the left. “We are trying to build a bloc of left parties at the moment and after that this bloc will coalesce with the nationalists. If we succeed in building this bloc between the left and the nationalists, we will change the balance of forces.”
However, the different approaches of the ESP and Revolutionary Socialists to the anti-democratic armed forces and the mass democratic movement now supporting them shows that uniting the left is not straightforward.
Both groups agree that the inability of the grassroots movement to present its own leadership, vision and organisation has allowed the Islamists, military and liberal politicians to repeatedly gain the benefits of mass uprisings. They attribute this to the movement’s inexperience but emphasise it is developing rapidly.
Habashi told GLW: “At the first stage of the revolution, the forces that carried the revolution out, mainly the young people, were organised to fight against all kinds of brutalisation.
“But they were still influenced by the media and other counter-revolutionary forces to view the main conflict as not between the revolutionary forces and counter-revolutionary forces, but as a generational conflict.
“They believed that they could succeed in doing everything only with the help of cyberspace organisations like Twitter and Facebook and so on. They succeeded to drop Hosni Mubarak and his regime from power, so they imagined in the beginning that they could move mountains.
“Nevertheless, after a few months they recognised that they needed another form of organisation, that their form of organisation was enough to abolish something, but not to build something new.
“The lesson was very painful, because they recognised that only the forces in society that have big organisation, very classical forms of organisation, get power … That was the state, represented by the army, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“All the revolutionary forces, because they did not have the real mass organisation, lost.
“That was the main lesson that made the young people recognise the necessity of organisation. Therefore, they have engaged in many kinds of organisation … and formed political parties but without knowing what is the essence of a political party …
“They don’t understand the difference between liberal and left. They don’t understand the ideological background of different parties.
“This is also something they have to learn through doing. They can never learn it through reading or studying, but only by doing, and these things take time.”