The ongoing revolution has reached a critical point as protesters and police clash in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, writes Sameh Naguib from Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists
People are filling the squares in cities across Egypt in their tens of thousands. The numbers in the streets are amazing.
Egypt’s second city of Alexandria is on fire. Students have marched in their thousands there. Even cities like Aswan in the more sparsely populated south have seen massive demos.
The people here in Tahrir Square are mainly young and working class. The barricades are up. Every time the police try to come back in they are forced back.
The police are reduced to protecting the interior ministry’s building. That’s all they can do now. Yet even there they have to fend off waves of attacks from thousands of protesters.
There appear to be splits in the ruling military council about what to do. At one point the army went into Tahrir Square with extreme force. Then abruptly they turned round and left again.
Some of the army clearly want to go all out to crush us. There were serious battles all around the edges of the square to get back in. But others think that’s too dangerous for the unity of the army itself.
The attacks we face are more brutal than anything we’ve seen yet. In Tahrir Square alone 33 people have been killed so far.
All around people are dying. The army are throwing dead bodies on the street. It has a fascist tone to it. Over 2,000 have been injured and many of those injuries are very serious.
The police and army are using terrible tear gas. It’s completely different to what they have used before. It leaves you out of breath, nauseous and disorientated.
They are using it in massive amounts to create huge clouds of white smoke. If you can’t get away people faint and suffocate. It becomes very dangerous.
But the violence is not working. The people are amazingly resilient. One guy we know, Ahmed Harara, lost an eye in the battle on 29 January. He wore an eye patch with the date written on it.
On Sunday he lost his other eye in the battle in Tahrir Square. He now has a second patch with 20 November written on it. And he is here in the square with us tonight.
This is a new stage in the revolution. But it will be a long battle. We don’t know what is coming yet. The crowds in Tahrir Square are as big as they were during the early days of the revolution. And the revolutionary anger is even greater than it was in January.
The army has miscalculated. This all started with provocation by the police. That created a huge backlash.
Now the security forces seem powerless to take the square back. They would need a wholesale massacre to do that—and that would create even more anger.
Perhaps this was a badly planned counter-revolution. As in other revolutions in history, sometimes an attempt at counter-revolution can jumpstart the revolution. That is what is happening here. The mood has shifted completely.
People always suspected that the military would not give up power even after elections. Now there is unprecedented clarity among the people. They understand that the enemy is the military junta.
Egyptians don’t just want Field Marshal Tantawi to step down. People now want to see him tried for crimes against the Egyptian people.
There is rage on the streets. The civilian ministers’ offer of resignation is nowhere near enough. Various political leaders came into the square today to talk to people.
But they were seen as collaborators because they had not come out strongly against the military. They were surrounded and beaten up.
This is happening against a backdrop of economic crisis. The regime is in serious economic trouble. They are running out of foreign currency, partly because tourists are staying away.
Prices are rising and wages are still at poverty levels. This is fuelling workers’ struggles. There is real chance of another big strike wave.
The role of the workers movement over the next days and weeks will be critical. Workers have been fighting back and setting up new unions partly because of growing confidence, but also because of the impact of the crisis.
The new federation of independent trade unions issued a strong statement that fully backs the latest demonstrations.
Political struggles can feed into the workers’ movement and generate renewed confidence for economic battles. These in turn can strengthen the movement on the streets. Every concession the regime makes creates a new will to fight.
We are agitating among workers and calling for a general strike across Egypt to finish off the regime. Our message to workers simple—“You saved the revolution the first time. You can do it again now.”
How you can help us
Egyptian activists need people internationally to protest in solidarity with them. We don’t know what the military are planning next. They might try to imprison many of us.
The important message is that the generals are a bunch of murderers. Young people are dying all over Egypt. We are fighting for the future of the revolution. And we need your solidarity now.
Egyptian activists in Britain have called a protest every night this week, from 5pm to 7pm, outside the Egyptian embassy at 26 South Street, London W1K 1DW.
For more details go to menasolidaritynetwork.com