Egypt’s ruling military council has launched a fresh wave of attacks on revolutionary activists.
An orchestrated media campaign against the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) began just before Christmas. It accused them of plotting to create anarchy by destroying the state.
An official legal complaint by Gamal Tag-al-Din, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, against three RS members followed.
He accused Sameh Naguib, Hisham Yosry and Yasser Abd-al-Qawy of planning to burn down public buildings on 25 January.
Tag-al-Din has withdrawn the complaint—but the state are pursuing the claims. The investigation could result in very serious charges against RS members—and potentially other activists.
Meanwhile police raided the offices of NGOs in Egypt on 29 December, confiscating documents and computers.
They arrested RS member Ahmed Ali, a researcher with the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory.
Whenever the military council feels confident enough to launch a counter-offensive against the movement in the streets, it targets activist groups.
Last summer it threatened and investigated the 6 April Youth Movement. In October it detained blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah following an army slaughter of protesters.
He has since been released after a mass campaign against his detention.
The RS played a prominent role in sit-ins during November and December. The group’s student activists helped to lead huge demonstrations from Cairo University and Ain Shams University. It has also been key to organising solidarity for mass strikes.
The current crackdown is intimately connected to Egypt’s recent elections. Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, won the lion’s share of the votes.
But the generals want a parliamentary facade while continuing to wield real power. The Islamist leaderships are happy with this—it puts the political focus on parliament instead of the street.
But the Muslim Brotherhood is riven with contradictions. Their activists were part of the revolution. Sections of the leadership are courting the military, while others don’t trust the generals.
In November, the military council announced it would remove even a semblance of independence from the incoming parliament. Brotherhood leaders turned to the streets to force the generals to retreat.
The mass protests in Tahrir Square on 18 November, supported by the Brotherhood, turned into a week of sit-ins and demonstrations across Egypt.
But Brotherhood leaders wavered between sending token support and calling on protesters to go to the ballot boxes. They didn’t control the wave of protest they had helped to unleash.
And they don’t have full support for their campaign against the RS—even from within the organisation.
Muhammad al-Beltagi, a leading figure in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, slammed Tag-al-Din’s legal complaint in a statement.
The attack on the RS also sparked outrage because the group was key to defending the Brotherhood from persecution by former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
As leading RS member Ahmed Ezzat explained on Al-Jazeera, “Our position was always that the dictatorship had to go, and that people should look behind the slogans which the state was using against the Islamists.”
The generals face immense pressure from workers’ strikes and protests.
Sugar refinery workers in Armant, near Luxor, began a strike on 1 January to remove the boss of the state-run sugar companies.
This strike is in direct defiance of the military council, which has declared its support for management.
The key challenge facing revolutionaries is to connect the organised power of groups of workers like these to the movement in the streets.