Egypt / FRFI 220 April/May 2011

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011

Egypt has become a popular destination for western politicians. On 21 February British Prime Minister Cameron became the first western leader to visit Egypt since Mubarak was driven from power on 11 February. Cameron arrived with a coterie of arms dealers, en route for the Middle East, finding time to praise democracy. Before leaving for Cairo, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, ‘We have an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy we want to see.’ Clinton explained, ‘the more foreign direct investment that we can help to encourage and support, we think will be beneficial for Egyptian people.’ The youthful protesters refused to meet Clinton because of her previous support for Mubarak.

Neo-liberal policies under the Mubarak regime removed workers’ rights, pushed people into poverty and concentrated wealth into the hands of a small minority. 44% of Egypt’s people live below the poverty line of $2 a day. The average The wage of a worker in Egypt is about a third that in Turkey. Between 2004 and 2009 Egypt received $42 billion of foreign capital, with no restrictions on repatriating profits and no taxes on dividends. Cameron and Clinton’s anxieties for the right kind of democracy are understandable.

The Egyptian state is run by the Supreme Military Council (SMC) during a six-month transition to democracy. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June, with a presidential election in August. No doubt foreign money will play a part in the campaigns. A 19 March referendum on reforming the constitution got a 41% turnout, and of this 77% of the votes were for constitutional amendments.

The SMC issued a decree criminalising strikes and protests that harm business. The US state is in constant contact with Egypt’s military command. The Egyptian military has major investments in assorted industries, dairy and chicken farms, owns bakeries, shopping centres and resorts. For years it received $1.3 billion a year from the US government. The Egyptian military is tied to imperialism and its high command is part of the elite comprador class. For the Egyptian masses the march to democracy must confront the power of the armed forces and their alliance with imperialism. The democratic struggle requires the fight for socialism if it is to progress. Anything else will leave the small privileged class in command who have everything to fear from democracy.

Trevor Rayne